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Rated: 18+ · Campfire Creative · Appendix · Teen · #1379908
Music is life. Life is music.
[Introduction] Vinyl is an independent [non franchized] music store. That means CDs and musical instruments. Mark and Marisaa [husband and wife] own the store. They hire kids to work.
But of course when you put nine kids together, things are going to get interesting.

First Entry Bio Block.
Rules: Keep it original and interesting. No one younger than 16, obviously, and the ages can be up to 20. Make your characters different.
No super-short entries. If you can't think of anything, just skip and wait until the next round.
Try to move the story foward.
You get three days, then I skip.
I want this to be fun!

There are five boys and four girls. Spots open! Request and I will add you :]

Two boy spots open. Tell me when you accept your invite it you want to be a boy or a girl. .
Name: Corey Randon
Age: 19 [almost 20]
Appearance: Tall and lean. Not muscular but not completely thin. Black hair that is thick and falls just to the top of eyebrows and ears. He has bright blue eyes and dresses very plain. Wears a lot of American Apparel- Long sleeved T-shirts and jeans. Black converse that he's had since he was a freshman. Handsome in an unconventional way.
Personality: Doesn't talk much but when he does it's usually sarcastic. No one except his best friend truly knows the real him. He's simple. Doesn't let people get close. At the same time, when he likes someone he shows it. He's very specific about the type of person he likes.
Other facts:The owners of Vinyl are his aunt and uncle, so he's worked there since he was fifteen. Moved out of his parent's house when he was 17. Doesn't go to college. Has no dreams or aspirations, really. His passion is music and everything else seems pointless to him. Doesn't make friends easily.
Plays the guitar. Broke his acoustic one by throwing it at the wall when he was angry. It's his dream to save up and buy a les paul. Listens mostly to classic rock.
Job at the store: Works the guitar center. Gives short lessons. Since he's been working there so long people give him run of the music that plays in the store too.
Name:Juliet DeWolfe
Age:16
Appearance:Average sized, about 5'3, with petite features. Small hands, small nose, almond shaped eyes with gray contacts. Pretty face. Long black-as-night hair that is naturally very curly but she usally straigtens and curls at the end. Wears only enough makeup to cover imperfections. Skin is light and she wears rosy blush and lipstick. She chews her nails so she paints them navy blue to try and kick the habit. She goes to a private school, so the blue pleated skirt and white button-up is what she usually shows up in. Non-school apparel is jean skirts and jean shorts with fitted shirts. She switches between a pair of pink ballet flats and pink winter boots.
Personality: Juliet often says that she doesn't love or hate or self, she is simply indifferent to herself. She is friendly and sweet, has a habit of talking to random people she has never met before. She is a polarizing person-people either love her or hate her, there usually isn't an in between.
Other facts: She's smart, and wants to be a lawyer. She's her parents' great hope. Works at the store with her older brother. She's had a crush on Corey for years. She's never had a serious boyfriend before. She's in the marching band at school, in the pit percussion section.
Job at the store: She's been playing the piano since she was five. She also plays trumpet. She works the piano center and the brass center.
Name: Jeff DeWolfe
Age:18
Appearance: Long curly "jim morrison" hair. Pale skin and nose is a little long. Average sized- 5'10 not thin not big. Dresses fairly average: polos, shirts, jeans, kakhis. Wears Ed Hardy and Guess a lot. He often forgets to shave so he has an accidental shadow most of the time.
Personality: Very laid-back and mellow. He's a sweet guy, the kind of person who will do favors for people without asking anything in return. He's usually the person that tells everyone to "chill out" when things get heated.
Other facts:Juliet's brother and Corey's best friend. She knows Juliet's feelings for him but tries to keep her away. He has a lot of that older brother protective in him. He's not quite sure what he wants to do with his life, but he's going to university next year and possibly majoring in music. He plays the tuba and the bass.
Job at the store: He used to work brass center and inventory before Juliet started working there, but now he heads cashier. He also gives demo lessons occasionally.
NAME: Simone Anthony
AGE: 19
APPEARANCE: About 5’6” with thin, black dreadlocks that go half way down her back. Light brown skin, large black eyes, and exotic features that she tries to hide along with her curvy body. Has the word ‘VERITAS’ tattooed along her spine. Except for the dreads, the tattoo and the flowers she sometimes wears in her hair, Simone’s style is pretty conservative: earth-tone cardigans with the occasional rock n‘ roll shirt, jeans or slacks, with black mary-janes.
PERSONALITY: Easy-going type of person who always goes for the laugh, but doesn’t suffer fools well. Older far beyond her years, she’s calm in a crisis especially when dealing with crazy customers. Takes a lot to piss her off. When that happens things tend to break.
OTHER FACTS: Is the only child born late in life to an ex-Black Panther father and peace loving Hippie mother; her parents are a real sore spot. Attending college on a science grant, she‘s been secretly thinking about changing her major to music which could mess up her scholarship. Although she was classically trained on the cello her real passion percussion. Taught herself how to play anything from drums to bongos. Working at Vinyl to save up money to travel the world.
JOB AT STORE: Mostly works in the percussion center. Because of her freakish knowledge about all types of music sometimes works inventory and customer service.
Name: Rin (nickname) Stonehouse
Age: 19 (20 in 6 months)
Appearance: Rin’s not super-tall, but taller than most girls. She’s lanky, but not unnaturally so. Rin has dark brown hair (almost black) with blue streaks that reaches down to a few inches past her shoulders. Her eyes are unusual, her left eye is blue and her right eye is green. She usually wears plain green T-shirts and jeans, with a midnight-blue coat that reaches to her ankles, regardless of the weather. Doesn’t like to wear make-up, or pink, she’s not the most ‘girly girl’ but not a complete tomboy either.
Personality: Rin is a little bit ‘out-there’ so doesn’t have too many friends or make them easily, but most people at the store seems to get along with her fine, and the good thing is she doesn’t like having too many friends, because she has experienced a lot of losses, friend and family wise. Everyone knows that when she’s writing or playing music, you shouldn’t interrupt her unless it’s a complete emergency.
Other Facts: She doesn’t go to college or want to, because her parents own a small farm about a two hour drive away from the store, and she works there as well as at Vinyl. The farm is an animal farm, and because she has no siblings, it will eventually pass over to her. As well as being skilled at music, she has a passion for art and has painted most of the stores wall decorations. She started working at Vinyl the exact day that she turned 16. Her favourite music genre is mainly alternative, industrial rock and classical rock. Rin is able to play the piano and the drums, but is especially skilled at guitars; bass, electric and acoustic.
Job at the Store: Runs the guitar section with Corey, takes over the lessons if he’s busy, and gains a little extra money when the store owners need to re-decorate.
A Non-Existent User
Name: Charlie Sato
Age: 18, turning 19 in two months
Appearance: Charlie is of medium height with somewhat contrasting features; his tan frame is wiry yet his shoulders are broad, and while his jaw is sharp and his brow is strong, they are softened by his dark, oval eyes. His light, small lips easily move to form distinct laugh lines, and and his face and arms are lightly dotted with freckles from several years of baseball in the sun. He has a small bump at the top of his slight nose from a high fastball gone astray, but he has a certain fondness for it. He keeps his naturally thick chestnut hair somewhat short, lest it get too unruly. Charlie prefers to buy his clothing from thrift shops. He is not picky about what he wears, and he does not consider himself to have any specific style. One day he may be wearing a tailored jacket and slacks, the next he may be in a t-shirt and old faded jeans.
Personality: Charlie is anything but predictable. It's not that he has unhealthy mood swings, he's just rather spontaneous; it's his whims that change more than his moods. The only thing constant is his energy; he detests being idle and always must find something to occupy himself, whether it's fiddling with the hems of his clothes or tapping random rhythms on his knees. As a result, he wears his feelings on his sleeves, and such unintentional expressiveness has made him a very open person- with both positive and negative consequences.
Other Facts: From a young age, his bilingual family has surrounded him with music of all sorts. He grew up listening to all of his father's classic rock, jazz, and obscure imported albums, his mother's musicals and orchestras, his older sister's pop tracks, and anything on the radio or television. He began playing the saxophone at age 10 but never played in school bands, however, confining his music to his private life. In his early teens, he began to delve into the ambiguously named "world music" genre and has since aspired to form some group of the sort, finding great potential in the blending of his own mixed background. He recently inherited his late grandfather's koto and has been sneaking into Vinyl's tiny recording room in the back to experiment. Charlie attends the local community college, where he writes anonymously or under a pseudonym for the weekly paper; he has been hoping to get his work more formerly published.
Job at the Store: Charlie works with the woodwinds, and he gives saxophone lessons on the weekends. He also is often in charge of cleaning up at night after the store closes.
Name: Kameron Turner
Age: 20
Appearance: 5'11. He has broad shoulders and a
narrow waist. Short messy blonde hair and deep
brown eyes. Great skin and teeth. His clothes
usually consist of whatever is clean, mainly
t-shirts and jeans. He has a sexy grin that
shows off his great dimples,and has no
reservations about using them to his advantage. He also has a small scar just over his left eyebrow that he got when he was 16 from a snapped guitar string.
Personality: He is a real charmer, to men and
women alike, a true gentleman. Doesn't have a
shy bone in his body. Very outgoing and friendly, however keeps his past strickly to himself.
Other facts: Kameron moved to town 6 months ago
when his band split up. Since then he has been
working days at Vinyl and playing gigs by himself at the
local bars at night, hoping to find a new band.
He's a really great guitar player and singer, he just
needs the right break.
Job at the store: Inventory and ordering
stock. Also in charge of locating rare albums,
cd's and instruments for customers. Somewhat of a treasure hunter for hire.
Corey turned off the ignition of his car, a white '93 convertible camero, his pride and joy. Tom Petty immediately stopped singing as the engine rumbled into silence. Throwing his keys up in the air, Corey got out of the car and walked up to the front of the store. Opening was his gig, to go through and check the store to make sure everything had been left in place at night. It was why he got paid more than most of the other workers. It was summer, and the hot sun bared down on his back without mercy .It probably didn't help that he was wearing a black T-shirt, but he never really minded. He would be in the store all day anyway.
Corey walked into the store. He looked around, first glace: check. All in order. He remembered when his aunt and uncle had first opened Vinyl, a little independent record store. Music had been their passion just like it was his [they had actually met at a show: his aunt in one band and his uncle in another]. When they had expanded to sell instruments, business had taken off. They were too attached to the name to change it. Corey had to answer the question at least a few times a day, "Why is the store called Vinyl if you sell instruments?"
He laughed to himself as he did the walk-through. Guitar Center was good, Rin was usually very good about that. The bass room was also clean. The drum room had a few things out of place, but what else would be expected of drummers? Keyboards were clean, which wasn't a surprise because piano players were unnaturally scrupulous. The woodwinds, good too.
Last was brass, and Corey always checked brass last. It was probably because he always stood near the register for a while, where a picture of Juliet and Jeff was tacked to the wall. His stomach always started to curl and fold whenever he did this, his mind usually doing twice the work. Then without a word, he went back into the office do check off the sheet and check in. He sat down on the old beat up sofa with his clipboard, just as the door opened again.
Juliet smacked her lips together after painting pink lip gloss on them, smiling at her reflection. The door was open behind her, and jeff put his head in and sat fiercely, "put some pants on!"
Juliet laughed and yelled back, "Put some style on!" She looked back at her reflection in the jean mini skirt and pink ballet flats with knee-highs. She slipped an old Doors concert shirt over her head, not because she particularly liked the Doors[she was more partial to nineties alt rock and folk rock], but because it used to be her mother's and Corey had once complimented her on it. She tended to over-wear anything Corey had complimented, which was of course a short list and one that he was not aware she kept. She hadn't had time to straighten her hair that day, so she pulled quickly pulled it into a bun at the top of her head. Jeff was shouting at her to hurry up. She never took this kind of care getting ready on a day she didn't work, but seeing her crush of six years gave her all the reason she needed.
"Hurry up!" Jeff shouted again. Juliet sighed heavily and grabbed her bag before going outside where her brother had started impatiently honking the horn.
When she got in, she immediately reached for the CD case but Jeff stopped her.
"If I have to listen to Tilly and the Wall another morning my head is going to explode," he said.
"And if I have to listen to The Clash one more morning my IQ is going to go down a hundred points."
It was a common argument among them. Jeff claimed that Juliet's taste in [usually] one-person acoustic folk bands laid nothing on musical value, and Juliet claimed that Jeff's taste in anarchic punk-rock was nothing but incoherent ramblings with no lyrical value.
Neither of them ever intended to win for more than a morning. They usually ended up in some kind of half-way compromise: Brand New, Stone Temple Pilots, and Led Zepplin [of course] were all bands that they could both listen to without complaint.

When they got to the store Kameron, Simone, and Corey were all setting up. Juliet knew that even when customers started showing up, the keybaord section would be bare. But it was summer, a lot of kids just getting into band camp would be coming in to buy brass, where they would marvel at the small girl who knew so much about brass instruments. Kameron was sitting in the corner playing acoustic, and the sounds moved through the store. Juliet stopped to listen for a while. She loved when Kameron played. She had gone with Jeff to one of his shows once or twice, and she truly admired his playing.
She spotted Corey at the registers and moved over to him immediately.
"I got a parking ticket," she said, jumping up onto the counter.
"You're old enough to drive?" Corey said, without looking up from his work.
"My birthday's in a week, lameass. I'll be seventeen."
"Really? Didn't you just turn twelve?" He looked up at her matter-of-factly. Juliet smiled despite trying to keep a straight face. Corey looked away.
"Have you done your brass inventory?" he said quickly.
"I need a ride to the courthouse."
"How did you get a parking ticket if you don't have a car?"
"It was Jeff's car."
"So why can't he take you?" Corey started to walk away. Juliet stayed where she was.
"He has remedial school before college. Please?" She spun around to face the inside of the store where Corey was walking toward the office.
"Do your inventory," he said.
Juliet smiled to herself. Jeff had just turned the sign over to say "open".
Vinyl was just starting to come to life while Simone was going through her inventory for a second time. There was a method to her madness. At the beginning of each day she always went through the persuasion inventory in alphabetical order then by order of preference. Sure, it didn’t necessarily make logical sense but in her mind it worked got just fine.

She began to beat a rhythm against her leg with an extra drum stick while trying to hold back a yawn. Her parental units had kept her up until three that morning going over contingency plans for a peace protest later that week. Her father‘s peace studies class was suppose to be in attendance and he wanted it to be as true to form as possible. Simone held her tongue long enough to escape that morning without reminding her father that back in his day they brought guns to rallies. Which kinda ruins the whole peace thing in her book, but hey, what the hell did she know?

Out of the corner of her eye Simone caught Charlie coming out of the woodwinds section with a box in his hands. They got along well. He was one of the few people who understood what it was like to by bi-cultural or in her case tri-cultural. She gave him a small wave as she watched him come over.

“Have a bad night?” he said as he placed the box on the counter in front of him.

Befuddled, Simone yawned, “Why’d you say that?”

Charlie looked pointedly down at the drum stick still tapping her leg. “ ‘Freddie Freeloader’.” Self-conscious, she stopped tapping. “Don’t you think it’s a little early for Miles Davis?”

“Its never too early for Miles, my friend.” Simone smiled ruefully. Her smile turned super sweet which only happened when she wanted something. “Charlie, my buddy, my pal. Please tell me you’ve been blessed by God and have come to bring me coffee.”

He just shook his head and laughed. “Nope. No blessed coffee today.” When he saw her yawn for a second time his expression become more amused. “Did you sleep at all last night?”

“A little.” Simone rolled up the sleeves of her black and white cardigan and looked in the box for any persuasion items that might have drifted into one of the other sections. “Mamá has decided to help my dad teach a class on activism. The coordinators were over last night working out the final details of their next protest. It’s amazing what commotion five Hippies and a plate of brownies can make in the middle of the night.”

Simone stretched her neck from side to side, mindless of the white rose precariously close to falling out from behind her ear, when she spotted Juliet going through her daily ritual of trying to make Corey nervous. It was always amusing to watch those two. “Plus, one of them might have caffeine,” she murmured tiredly under her breath. She hit Charlie lightly in the shoulder as a signal for good-bye and was making her way to the front of the store when the entrance doors banged open.
"Nobody panic! I'm here! It's okay now," said Rin as she opened the doors in a harsh manner. She scanned the room, seeing who had arrived, then strolled over to the guitar section, grabbing her electric guitar along the way and sat down to work on a new riff, snatching glances of Corey and Juliet. She knew she wasn't the only one who found it entertaining to watch the two.

The music wasn't coming to her, it just wasn't her day. Putting her guitar down, she decided to go and talk to Charlie, he was the only other person who wasn't doing anything. Corey and Juliet were talking, Kameron was playing the acoustic and Simone dumming. But Charlie was sitting down, looking as bored as Rin was. It was great working at Vinyl, but when there were no customers, it could get pretty dull. Unless you were playing music, but that was out of the question for Rin, for the moment at least.






Jeff watched at his sister followed his best friend into the office. He sighed heavily, trying to ignore it although he knew it was impossible. Simone came up to him, looking very tired.
"By any luck at all do you have coffee?" She asked hopefully. Jeff shook his head.
"Nope, I was thinking of going to get some. Do you wanna come?" Simone looked back into the shop. It was only nine, people probably wouldn't start showing up for another thirty minutes, even then they would be few and far between. Besides, the coffee shop was just down the street.
"Juliet! Corey! You guys want anything from the coffee shop?" He called to the back. Juliet walked out of the office and up to him. She was twirling a drumstick between her fingers.
"Pomegranate smoothie," she said. Jeff laughed. Corey came out after her. He nodded without saying what he wanted. Jeff knew already. All the times they had ordered coffee while working together, and Corey had never ordered anything other than a cup of java with a shot of espresso. He was a simple man, Corey.
"You going Simone?" Juliet asked. Simone nodded wordlessly.
"I'm going too!" Charlie called from the back of th store.
"I want to go," Juliet said with a pleading look at her brother.
"Oh no, someone's gotta stay here," Corey said. Juliet frowned, but Jeff saw a hint of a smile on her lips.
"Let's go," Jeff said as they left the store.
A Non-Existent User
It was with a bit of guilt that Charlie agreed to go. Part of it had to do with the fact that he was, in all honesty, a bit easily irked by certain people. He could not stand Juliet's flirting rituals or Corey's feigned oblivious attitude, and frankly, Rin just gave him the creeps sometimes. So to consciously decide to leave the building because of other people's mannerisms made him feel a pang of shame. Charlie knew how it felt to be avoided like that; he silently scolded himself as he, Jeff, and Simone walked out of the store and into the cool, crisp light of morning.

I don't even like coffee, he thought, a reluctant smile twitching at one corner of his mouth. Simone wouldn't have mooched anything off me, anyway. He shot her a discreet, triumphant glance, as if he were Bugs Bunny getting the best of Elmer Fudd.

The glory of Charlie's shallow victory faded as soon as the biting tang of coffee beans assaulted his nose. He had to get something to make up for leaving the store; he needed an excuse to not dwell on his regretful behavior. He hung back as Simone quickly paid for whatever concoction she was getting. Jeff quickly rattled off the list of employee requests- Juliet would have to settle with a coffee infusion today- and then he turned to Charlie.

"What did you say you wanted, again?" he asked.

"Coffee?"

"You're getting some?"

"I am?"

"Aren't you?"

"Yeah?"

"What kind?"

"Small?" Charlie knew he couldn't keep answering questions with a question. "Small."

Jeff muttered something to the cashier, accepted some wadded up bills from Charlie, and forked up his own money, placing the assortment of dull coins and wrinkled paper into the hands of the drowsy cashier, who took a few moments to realize that she had reason to believe the customer needed some amount of change. Watching her fumble about the cash drawer in a daze, Charlie seriously doubted that the amount of money Jeff received was correct. But Jeff was not one to care about that sort of thing, especially not when he was in charge of shepherding all-important caffeine to its rightful recipients. Their drinks arrived, piping hot, strong, and bitter-smelling. Charlie grabbed two handfuls of cream and sugar.

Simone furrowed her brow as she watched him awkwardly try to balance all the sugar packets in the crook of his elbow while carrying the cup in one hand and cream in the other. "So... will you be having any coffee with your cream?"

"Not if I can help it," Charlie muttered. Simone must have thought he was joking, for she laughed a bit. But Charlie only stared down into the little cup with the look of a child forced to take a whole bottle of cough syrup.

Back at the store, drinks were dispensed, thank yous were said, and one cup was filled to the brim with cream and sugar. It was the only way he could get the stuff down: diluting it so he couldn't tell it was coffee anymore. Even then, he could barely do more than sip a little at a time. Twice he dribbled a bit on his sleeve. By the time the store was set to open, everyone had finished their drinks, while Charlie still had half a cup of warm, pale, unappetizing liquid. Looking at his own dull, blurred reflection in the coffee, Charlie gave a sigh. He silently slipped out back, tossed the cup into the dumpster, and meandered inside as if nothing had happened.

Juliet greeted him inside. "First customer of the day." She jerked her head over to where there was a timid little boy standing solidly behind his large mother's bright, flowery dress.

Charlie forced the remainder of that awful coffee aftertaste down, hoping none of it wafted towards the poor souls as he spoke. "Hello, what can I do for you today?"

"We're looking for a tenor saxophone," said the mother, bored and calm. The boy locked his eyes on his shoes.

Charlie beamed at him. That was his instrument. "Great! So glad you picked that, I can really-"

"He didn't pick it," said the mother irritably. "He got placed in his middle school band. It was the only instrument left. No one else wanted to play it." The boy sulked even lower, his glasses slipping on his nose a bit.

Scratching his wrist, Charlie excused himself. "But then... shouldn't the school have an instrument? It would be much cheaper to rent from the school than to buy a new saxophone," he said, his cheerful smile slightly dampened.

The boy finally spoke up. "It's missing the body."

Charlie stared at him. "The body. It's missing the whole body?"

"Yeah. They said it went missing at the end of last year. Can't find it anywhere..." muttered the boy. "But they have the mouth thingy and the clasp thingy and the curvy neck thingy." His pale cheeks flushed as he stood there not knowing what to name the various thingies. Charlie was incredulous. How did the whole body of a tenor sax just go missing? And how could it be the one instrument that none of the kids wanted? Surely they had at least seen that middle size saxophone before, immortalized in both jazz musician portraits and television gags. Surely they had seen that proud tenor perched on the side of a musician, standing by like a friend- not in front of him, not simply a musical instrument. How had the young students filled up chairs for euphoniums and tubas, but not the tenor sax? Charlie was baffled. But then again, he had bypassed the cruel world of middle school band altogether.

He felt awful for this little boy.


"You're welcome, Mr. Ellis. Oh..okay, Pete then. It was a pleasure tracking down such a beautiful insrument for you. You can pick it up anytime. No problem, will do. Bye."

Kam hung up the phone and sighed. Another mission accomplished. Just then the door to the office opened. It was Jeff.

"Hey, what's up?" he asked

Standing up, Kam stretched. "Sweet day! Just reunited a great instrument with it's new owner. You comin' to the Nile tonight?"

Jeff sat on the edge of the desk. "You know it! Ten o'clock right?"

"Yup." Kam smiled. He loved it when his friends came to watch him play. The Nile was a quaint little pub just down the street. Kam had gotten a regular gig there.
Grabbing his coat, Kam grinned at Jeff.

"Hey maybe I'll get lucky tonight."

Seeing the look on Jeff's face, Kam laughed and raised his hands.

"Hey, I was talking about an agent."

Kam walked out of the store and headed toward the Deli down the block. He really didn't like eating alone, but unfortunately no one at Vinyl got lunch breaks at the same time, as it was usually fairly busy that time of day.

As he ate his sub, Kam thought back to six months ago. He was on top of the world. He had a great band, they were playing all their own stuff, and then there was Lindsay. He was so in love with her...nothing could touch him. Or so he thought.

Just before the band was due to record their first album, Kam came home early to find his girlfriend and drummer in bed together. Without waiting for an expaination, Kam packed a bag and hopped a bus. He landed a job at Vinyl the day after he came to town, and has been trying to get his life back together ever since.

Not really feeling the need to go all 'talk show' on his friends, Kam decided to keep his past to himself.

As Kam opened the door to Vinyl, all he could do was stand in the doorway with his mouth wide open. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.
 

Name:  Davis (Davy) Jones

Age:  18

Appearance:  Davy's a little on the short side, at 5' 9", slim, 140 lbs, still a little gawky-looking. He's an African-American, with dark skin, black hair he keeps short, and big, black eyes. He likes cargo pants because he can put his drum sticks in the larger pockets, and button-up shirts that he leaves un-tucked.

Personality:  Davy tends to be quiet, but he's a genuinely optimistic person. The only thing he truly regrets about being deaf is that his enjoyment of music is restrained to turning up the bass real loud and pressing his ears to the speakers. He loves people, loves to be around the action, but prefers to observe rather than participate. Davy can always be counted on to share a smile, and he delights in being able to turn other people's bad days or moods into good ones.

Other facts:  Essentially running away from an over-protective mother, Davy is new to the area, looking for a job to support himself. He moved out the day after he graduated high school, which also turned out to be the day before he turned 18. He's deaf (but he can read lips pretty good) and doesn't like to talk because he hates the way his accent makes people wince (I'll write his ASL in different font). He played the bass drum in his school marching band and also plays the side (tenor) drum in a Celtic Pipe and Drum corps. And yes, he's quite aware of how odd he looks in his uniform (a black man in a kilt!). His bandmates still find this hilarious. He'll be starting University in the fall on a science scholarship.

Job at the store:  Cashier, other?

*          *          *

         "All set, Davy?" asked Angel, tapping her young friend on his shoulder.

         The youth turned to her and smiled, nodding. He gave her the thumbs-up sign.

         "Glad you decided to join us," she chattered as they gathered up their drums and harnesses. "Couldn't believe you left the Seven Pipers."

         University in the fall.

         "What? Sorry, Davy, my sign language's kinda rusty. No, no, really. Say it slower ... Oh." She rubbed her forehead. "Right. I forget. Man, I can't believe you're all growing up so fast. My girls are both old enough to drive now." She shivered, giving the other drummer a mock grimace. "Too bad they're not interested in piping. Well, see you Thursday, then!"

         Davy grinned at the Drum Sergeant of his new pipe band and waved as he placed his equipment back in the padded compartment he'd built into the trunk of his car. The handles of his drumsticks slapped his legs companionably as he slid behind the wheel. He was almost two weeks now in his own apartment, his own life! He'd never felt so good. Unfortunately, the quest for a job was not going well and he'd either forgotten or lost some things in the move. Heck if he was going to go home and look, though. He'd seen what looked like a good music store on his way to practice and a couple of the other drummers had recommended a place called Vinyl. He pulled the directions out of his pocket and reviewed them again before carefully backing out of the parking lot.

         He hummed to himself as he drove, fingers itching to run through the new routine. Davy was what was called a Flourishing Tenor, playing as an accent to the snare drums and twirling the large mallets in a series of coordinated movements to add 'flourish' to the music, sometimes also called 'spectacle.' While folks listened to the rat-a-tat of the snares, the steady beat of the bass, and the whine of the pipes, they watched the tenors and their flying sticks and Davy loved it. Visual music. Of course, when the bass drum got spun around the neck of its wielder or the bass drummer did small flourishes, that was amazing, too, but tenor drums were simply the best musical instrument ever.

         He found the place much easier than he'd expected, noting the sandwich place down the street. Now that he'd completed his first practice with his new band, the nerves were settling down and he thought he might be able to eat now. But first, he needed a new practice pad, and a place with some soundproofing to practice outside of the group. this place looked like it might have some studios.

         Cautiously pushing the door open, Davy just stopped for a minute and stared. There was a baby grand piano in one corner, a whole section devoted to ... records? and practically every instrument he ever knew existed (and some he didn't) either set up or hanging from the walls. Next to the music section was set of shelving that looked like sheet music and some doors in the back that definitely looked like they led into practice rooms.

         "Shit," he murmured.

         A couple dozen people roamed the store freely and his eyes didn't at first settle on the reddish-brown-haired stranger with the wide, dark eyes standing in front of him. Davy smiled in genuine happiness.

         "Wow."

         "Yeah," says the clerk, hands relaxing to his hips. "Can I help you?" He gestured at the store. "Find anything? Oh." His gaze spied the drumsticks, one on either leg, puzzling for a bit over the shoelaces apparently sewed onto the bulbs on the ends. "Drummer? That's Simone's section."

         The strange guy turned to gesture and Davy missed the last sentence or two, but he could recognize a dismissal when he saw one and padded almost reverently through the store, taking detours just for the sake of running his hands over the instruments and scanning the hard rock collection. Finally landing in the percussion area, he took a closer look, jumping at the slight hand on his shoulder. He hadn't seen the girl approach.

         "Hi. I'm Simone. Can I help you find anything."

         I need a practice pad, he answered automatically, but dropped his hands in embarassment, glad that his dark skin hid his blush. He pointed instead and mimed a drumroll.

         "We got four types and ...."

         Davy frowned as the girl turned away and he lost the sentence, but he followed over to the counter, eyes flicking to the pads. He had a fairly large one, the size of the drum head, but he wanted something smaller that he could easily carry around with him. He pointed out the one he wanted and slid the gray octagon out of the box, whipping out his sticks to give it a try. The laces slipped through his fingers easily and smoothly, letting the homemade, wooden sticks with their white heads dangle freely from his capable hands. The pad was small, small enough that he'd be challenged to nail the center without clicking the fuzzy mallets against each other.

         He grinned and in another moment lost track completely as his hands sped through his old routine, flipping the sticks around his head and ears and by his sides and across his chest in a slow but ever increasing tempo accompanied by the muffled beat on the pad. He stopped, grinning, and opened his eyes, startled to see a number of folks gathered around, clapping. Blushing a little deeper, he slid the sticks back in his pocket and fished for his wallet.

         "Sorry," he mumbled. "Dijna min ta cuss uh scene."
Corey sat up against the wall behind the counter. He watched as customers began to file in and out of the store, each going to their respective sections, some buying and some not. He watched as Juliet wondered aimlessly through the keyboard section, occasionally stopping to play something random. He thought about the nights that he and Jeff had spent in their garage just jamming with an old buddy of theirs who played drums. He remembered the first time he had seen Juliet, not met her, but seen her, as a real person and not Jeff's bratty sister. They had been jamming out to some blues music in Jeff's garage and she had been watching them from the doorway. Their drummer friend had left to pee, and Juliet had wondered in without a word and played a jazz beat to the scales they were practicing. Just a simple 2-4 beat, but Corey had been blown away by her audacity.

Now Juliet looked up from the keyboard, and Corey looked away. Frustrated with himself, he got up and wondered over to the guitar center. A kid, maybe sixteen, was wondering around the guitars.
"What would you say about these fenders?" He asked Corey, seeing the employee badge around his neck.
"Can't go wrong with a strat, man," Corey replied, watching as the boy ran his fingers along the edge of the guitar.
"Strats are pussy magnets, man," the boy said. He seemed to have anticipated a postive reaction from Corey, but Corey struggled to hold back his disgust. Anyone who made a comment like that in reference to a guitar was not a real musician, and deserved to be playing an Ibanez or something that was likely to break in a few months. It was like guitarists who only read tabs and pretended like they were the next Hendrix. It was pure blasphemy to Corey's ears.
"You gotta know what I'm talking about," the boy added. "A guy like you, I bet you rake them in all the time."
This time Corey did laugh, but held his tongue. The truth was, he'd had quite a few girls in his day. Relationships had never gotten emotionally far, though, and most girls got kicked to the curb after a few months. Corey had a short attention span when it came to females. Except of course for,
"Corey," Simone was standing behind him. Corey turned. "There's a guy here who says he wants to apply. Well, he didn't exactly say. He's deaf, I think." Simone looked over her shoulder to where a boy was playing absent-mindedly on a practice pad. "I told him I talk to our manager," Simone added. Corey nodded.
He looked back at the boy who had pulled the guitar off it's stand. "You gonna need any help?" he asked him. The boy shook his head. "Well if you need anything, Rin will help you."
Juliet put a jazz cd into the cd player as it rang through the small brass room. She usually played various rock songs that incorporated instruments other than guitar, bass, and drums. but she was feeling jazzy today. As the first track started she hummed along to the familiar progression, dreaming a familiar dream about hitch-hiking to new orleans and joining a jazz improv band that played street corners and night clubs. She knew it was far-fetched and even ludicrous, but she kept it tucked away for those lonely nights.
She sat on the barstool behind the counter and rested her head on her arms, blowing rogue curls out of her eyesight. A boy walked into the room, and at first Juliet didn't give him a second glance, until she realized it was the baritone section leader for her marching band.
"Juliet!" He said loudly. "I didn't know you worked here!" His attempts to sound non-commital only led Juliet to believe that he had, in fact, known very well that she worked there. He was a senior, a tall lanky mexican boy with long curly brown hair and very odd blue eyes. She couldn't remember his name, only that it started with an R. Maybe.
"Hi, uh," Juliet frowned, knowing that if she guessed at his name it would make her sound like a total douche. She stayed silent.
"Brian," he said.
"Oh," Juliet looked away, embarassed. But of course he didn't know that she had thought his name started with an R. "So what can I help you with, Brian?"
"I need a trumpet."
"I didn't know you played trumpet," Juliet said.
"You also didn't know my name was Brian, so I don't think you're too much of an expert on me." He smiled, and Juliet noted that he had a very nice smile. She got up off her barstool and moved over to the wall of trumpets.
"What is it for?" she asked. He tilted his head. "What kind of music are you going to be playing? Is Mr. Linkman moving you to trumpet?"
"Oh, no. It's for mariachi. But I'm also getting into some jazz."
Juliet nodded. "Well, I'll show you what I play on, it's pretty much all purpose." She started to reach up for the trumpet when a loud crashed inside the main room of the store.
After they walked a few feet away from the sex-crazed boy, Simone pulled Corey aside to the "World Music" section to talk to him in private. This part of the store was quiet except for a lone girl jamming off-rhythm to music of a sitar.

"I want you to hire him."

"Who, that mullet kid with no musical sense?" Corey, shivered in disgust at the very thought.

"No, this new guy Davy. I want you to hire him."

Simone watched Corey switch into manager mode as he crossed his arms over his chest and made his expression go blank. The unspoken leader of Vinyl, Corey was crazy-go-nuts about all aspects of the store. Everything needed his approval before anyone could change anything and any major change went through his aunt and uncle. She respected and admired his work ethic, but he could be a hardass sometimes. Simone mimicked his stance and settled down for a long fight.

"I know nothing about this guy. Why would I hire him?"

Simone ticked off the reasons on her fingers. "He’s nice. Polite. Slightly crazy from the little display he put on, which is obviously a perk in our line of work. And the boy’s got game.” She stared at him intently, placing her hands on her hips. “Didn't you hear him play a few minutes ago? He was brilliant."

Corey shifted on his feet, his body shifting uncomfortably. "I was helping a customer," he scowled. "Some people actually have work to do."

"No, you were talking yourself out of jumping Juliet." He opened his mouth to deny it but she just shook her head. "Look, forget I said that. Although it is amusing to watch the two of you in your own little Shakespearean play, I really don't care about your love life. Just trust me on this and hire the guy."

They stood in silence for a moment. Simone was ready for further argument, thinking of all the angles she could play when Corey finally said, "Crazy huh?” Simone smiled. She knew she had him. “Alright. Let me go talk to this guy."

"Thank yo-"

CRASH!

Their focus turned to the disturbance from the Guitar Center. The mess was a sight to see. Rin was waving fists in the air with her black and blue hair flying, screaming at the mullet kid with all of Hell's fury. Corey began to head over to the fight but Simone grabbed his arm. "I'll handle this. Just go talk to Davy."

Before he order her otherwise, Simone pushed him in direction of the front room and headed for Rin. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Kameron coming from the back to help. Great, she thought, just what I need. Determinedly, she pushed her distrust to the back of her mind and raced to the Guitar Center before Rin killed someone.

"OVER MY DEAD BODY!" screamed Rin. Picking it up, she held her guitar in front of her as a kind of weapon. The boy was advancing, holding his arms up.

"Come on, you're being unreasonable," he said in a relaxed manner, then tried to grab Rin's arm. Quickly, she swung her guitar out, as hard as possible, and a whole chunk shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces. The boy jumped back, apparently he wasn't thinking that she would actually defend herself. Again he advanced, and this time Rin swung the broken guitar repeatedly.

"That-was-signed-by-Trent-Reznor!" she yelled in between swings. Kameron finally arrived in the guitar center, and jumped on top of the guy, pinning his arms and legs down.

"Call the cops!" he yelled. Rin ran over to help him pin down the frantically struggling guy. Simone stopped running towards the guitar center, and instead ran to the phone on the wall and called the cops.

In a surprisingly short time, they arrived, and took the struggling teen away. Everyone turned to Rin, who tried her best at a smile, but looked down at the broken guitar in her hands.

"It doesn't matter," she said. "I had musicians block anyway." She turned to Corey. "If it's okay with you, I think I'll go home early today."
Jeff started picking up the peices of the broken guitar, sighing heavily.

"Never a boring day," Kameron said as he threw peices into a large plastic bin. "M and M are gonna have a fit when we tell them." Jeff nodded. M and M were the owners of the store, and since they usually traveled together and had all the same opinions on things, everyone just referred to them as one entity. Corey was still talking to the new guy back in the percussion section. Jeff knew that he was purposely avoiding the guitar center because seeing a broken guitar was like seeing a dead body for someone like him. Utter waste.

"I swear Kam, when I took this job, I thought I'd just work a few hours a day, save up some money for a car, and maybe get to play a little on some bass every once in a while. I never thought it would become-"

"Your life?" Simone was standing behind him with a broom. "All the chips," she said.

"Yeah, my life. Anyone who means anything to me works here," Jeff replied. Kameron laughed.

"Yeah," Simone added. "Especially since you broke up with Barbie, or Bambi, or Bimbo, what was her name?"

"Bridgette," Jeff said immediately. He sighed as the familiar knot grew in his chest at the sound of her name. Bridgette was the thin, blonde dance team girl that had oddly taken a liking to Jeff in his senior year. They had dated for a few months, and everyone at Vinyl hated her. She wasn't too intelligent, and had no interest in music beyond billboard top ten and "anything you can dance to!!!!". But Jeff couldn't deny that he had fun with Bridgette, and she was a great kisser.

He had broken up with her, but only because he found out that she had been making out with some guy on the basketball team. She had cried and told him it was a mistake, a hiccup. Her exact words were, "I've been so used to dating these hot, macho guys, it was more habit than anything. But you're so different, and I love that you're different." Needless to say, it was a bittersweet ending.

"Yeah, her. I'm surprised Juliet hasn't killed her yet."

"Not for lack of wanting to," Jeff replied.

"Speaking of Juliet," Juliet said from behind him. "I've got someone here who wants to buy a trumpet, but in all the commotion it seems we have no cashiers!" Jeff looked at the curly-haired boy holding a blue trumpet case.

"Corey!" he called out. Corey had appeared with the boy he had been talking to.

"Checkout," Juliet said to him. Corey looked from Juliet to the curly-haired boy.

"This is Davy, he will be helping you." Corey said suddenly. He pushed Davy towards the register and the curly-haired boy tagged along. Juliet made like she was going to follow them but Corey said quickly, "station, juliet", and she turned around to go back to the brass room. The store was beginning to fill up. It was busy time.
A Non-Existent User
Aside from the commotion of the first half of the day, the rest of their time in Vinyl passed without any more unusual incidents. It had been a good business day- Saturdays always were, though Charlie somewhat had wanted the amusing mullet kid to stay, if only “for shits and giggles,” he joked with Jeff. All employees and some customers had made their way over to Rin to marvel in sympathy over the remains of her guitar. Charlie was slightly disappointed when they all dispersed; knew the tedious hours that were to follow. He had already sold some cleaning kids, a used tenor saxophone to the mother and the boy, and a clarinet to another young student. Someone had come by to pick up a foreign-made flute that Kameron had hunted down ("Flute-making in this country is in its death throes," the old lady had said haughtily), and he had given a half-hour lesson in the back room to a wiry little ten-year-old with her alto sax. He wasn’t a brilliant teacher, but he could teach enough to start a young student off well. Besides, he’d take whatever extra pay he could get.

But as usual, the shelves CDs and sheet music were no longer in any sort of order. Gershwin was with Guns and Roses. Rachmaninoff was getting cozy with Radiohead. Baroque fugues had somehow found their way into light jazz piano solos. And so, despite the lack of interest in the modest woodwind section that day, there was still something for Charlie to busy himself with. Silently, as customers and staff bustled around him, he diligently went through each aisle of music, pulling out pop CDs from rows of folk music, moving Fitzgerald out of the Coltranes and Colemans. It was boring, but it had a robotic quality that Charlie allowed himself to slip into. Look, grab, pull, look, grab, pull... Every now and the he broke this rhythm to cast a nervous glance back to his counter. Part of it was to check for any potential clientele, but he was also worried about the long, heavy box he had left behind the counter. As his little ritual of pulling papers and flipping books looking over his shoulder went on, the sunlight outside dwindled. The day's pure light was replaced with a golden, muted glow, glinting off merchandise and winding its way between the shelves and flickering across Charlie's face. He looked at the window; clouds had suddenly started to move in, dark and lumbering over the horizon, pushing the light farther and farther.

Corey shuffled by, a timid, bearded man trailing behind him. “Looks like rain tonight,” he said, scouring the shelf in front of him for a particular item. Unable to find what he was looking for, he turned toward Charlie’s armful of sheet music. “Got any Judas Priest in there?” he asked, lifting the top booklet with a callused finger. Charlie nodded, fumbled through the music, and produced three Judas Priest albums he had confiscated from pop music. Corey handed them to the customer, jerking his head slightly in thanks. As he and the man walked back to the register, Charlie felt a bit of hope pull him out of his dull mood. His thoughts went back to the box. If it rains, he thought, everyone will want to leave quickly. He would have to stay to clean up tonight- and that meant he would have the place to himself, with a bunch of extra time.

The last few customers scuttled out of Vinyl and into, as Corey had predicted, a light drizzle that began to fall onto the darkening streets. Jeff put up the “Closed” sign a few minutes earlier than normal, and everyone but Charlie grabbed their things and proceeded to sign out, say their goodbyes, and rush out into the growing rain. When he was sure they were gone, Charlie quickly rushed through the store to get things cleaned up as fast as he could; He wanted some time to himself that night. Striding through each section, he reorganized the percussion instruments, cleaned up leftover splinters of Rin’s guitar (placing them in storage, though; she would have a fit if they were thrown away), replaced fallen music to its proper shelf space, closed and stored inventory books, and absentmindedly swept several forgotten pens, a white flower, chewing gum, and a stack of advertisements under the main counter. It was pouring outside, now. Charlie had more reason to take all the time he needed.

Feeling his work was done, he locked the front door, switched off the lights, and walked through the gloom to the box behind the shelf. Just as he was preparing for the strenuous lift, he was jolted by a sudden crash from the back of the building. Leaving the box on the ground, Charlie froze, still hunched over. Someone else was here. Hadn’t he locked up the back? He felt his face go white in the dark; he had forgotten about the back door in his eagerness to sneak around. “Must be Karma,” he bitterly said to himself. There was another crash and a smatter of stumbling footsteps. Charlie grabbed a music stand that was on display, gripping it tightly as he approached the source of the noise. The open doorway to the back hall was empty, but he heard the footsteps coming closer. He tried to calm himself. His arms were still strong from baseball, he was sure on his feet. Why then, was his heart beating in his ears, and why did his breathing thunder in his head? His knuckles were now as white as his face. The footsteps were right there. He took a step forward and raised his arms-

“Charlie!”

Simone stumbled forward out of the pitch-black hallway, and, seeing a music stand raised in the air, had jumped to the side just as Charlie managed to slow down his swinging his arms. With a deep exhale, he dropped the stand and turned to Simone, who was leaning on a table of clearance cleaning kits, looking fairly bewildered. “I didn’t know you were still here,” she said breathlessly.

“Jeez, I’m so sorry,” Charlie said, putting his hand to his forehead. “I seriously thought someone was breaking in.” 



Simone rolled her eyes and laughed. “It’s not exactly breaking in if the door is already unlocked.”

“True, true,” said Charlie with a relieved grin as he felt around the wall for the light switches. With a little click, the room was suddenly filled with a flood of fluorescent light. The two of them squinted in the sudden brightness and got their bearings. Simone was drenched from head to toe and shivering a bit. She shot a longing glance at the cleaning kits.

“Mind?”



Charlie understood what she meant. “Nah, go ahead,” he said. She immediately opened several kits and snatched out their polishing clothes, using them to mop up as much water as they would take. Charlie laughed at her, though. “You do realize it’s still raining, right? You’ll just get soaked again.” Simone answered with a grunt and continued. “So what did you come back for?” he asked.

Simone hesitated for a moment. “It’s kind of silly, actually.” She bustled over to each counter, frantically searching on and around them. “I lost my flower.” Charlie looked a bit confused, so she repeated herself. “That thing I was wearing in my hair today. The white one? Come on, you saw it! It’s, like, bigger than my head...”

Charlie remembered sweeping it under the counter earlier, and he dashed over and grabbed it. Its petals were already starting to wrinkle around the edges as he handed it back.

“So why did you come back for that?” he asked as she tried, but failed, to fit it into her soppy hair.

“I never throw away any of the real flowers that I wear. I press them later.”


“Exciting.”

“Yep.”

Charlie slowly drummed his fingers on the countertop. “So... you leaving now?”


Simone looked up dolefully, seeing the rapid patter of the rain outside. “I’d rather not,” she said. She looked at Charlie. “If you don’t mind... Could I just wait it out in here? At least until it slows down a bit? You don’t have to stay. I could lock up if you wanna leave right now.”

But Charlie also didn’t want to plunge into the cold, rainy night. Especially not when he had something else to do here. And so he agreed, and he got an idea. Grinning a little, he turned toward Simone. “Actually... I do have something to make waiting less boring. Come with me, I’ve got something to show you.” He led her over to the long, heavy box. Gritting his teeth, he quickly lifted it up onto the countertop, wincing as the precious contents thudded down. It was about five feet long, almost a foot wide; he had been nervous carrying it out that morning, especially running into Simone. But she had been a bit too distracted then to notice even a large box, or at least too distracted to acknowledge it. Pulling apart the flaps on the corners of the box, he said to her, “Here’s something even Kameron would have a hard time tracking down. With that he opened the box.

She just stared. “What is it?”


“It’s a koto. My grandpa willed it to me.” It was a long, broad, slab of finely lacquered wood, strung with thirteen strings over individual bridges. Each end of the smooth wood was decorated with pale designs of flowers, and beside the instrument in the box lay a bag of thee plectrums which resembled odd, fan-like fingernails. This was an unusual koto because of its size, nearly a foot shorter than the standard. It had to have been custom made for someone ; Charlie didn’t know who, exactly, had owned it first. But somehow it had ended up in the hands of Nobuyuki Sato, who had diligently practiced it every day until he was too weak to do so. While Charlie’s whole family loved music, only a few of them actually made it. His grandfather had known Charlie was one of those few who did, and so it was natural for the instrument to be passed on this way.

He tried his best to explain things to Simone, but he was somewhat embarrassed and stumbling over his words. Something about family always set him off like that; if he was talking about the Japanese side, he felt he was neglecting the Ashkenazi side, and vice-versa. But all the while, a different kind of nervousness tugged at his stomach. It was pleasant but distracting. He tried brushing it away, but it kept coming back, and he looked up from the koto to see Simone staring at him knowingly.

“You’ve been using the recording equipment, haven’t you?” she said flatly. Charlie snapped his face towards hers. He had gone white again, and he stared at her anxiously with wide eyes. It had been explicitly noted, when each person had been hired, that the sparse recording equipment in the tiny back room was off limits to staff; it was for the private use of the owners, who only allowed others to use it once in a blue moon. But Charlie, with no other access to such equipment and nothing of the sort in his own possession, had felt the temptation to be too strong. Within a month after being hired and locking up at night, he had begun using it regularly.

Her face didn’t move, Charlie watching it in anxiety. After a few seconds- but what seemed like hours- she gave a small smile. “I won’t tell,” she said, leaning over the instrument, “if you let me have a go at it, too.” And with that, she swiped a hand gently across the strings, drawing a muted, purring ripple from the koto.

Thoroughly relieved for the second time in a matter of minutes, Charlie grinned and opened the bag of plectrums.

For the next couple of hours, as the rain alternated between heavy drops and torrential downpour, Charlie sat on the floor of Vinyl with Simone and his grandfather’s koto. He played what he had learned from his grandfather as a child: folk tunes and children’s songs. “I purposefully stayed out of school band,” he told her, “but if there had been some sort of koto group, I would have joined that.”

Simone knew his frustration with school bands well. She was the only person at Vinyl who could last through one of Charlie’s unexpected manifestos on the evils of the school music systems; how they sapped creativity from the students; how they led to widespread, improper technique; how certain instruments- like his beloved tenor sax- would never see a day where they had something other than downbeats to play and rests to sit through. And he, too, knew her anger with the school system at all levels, and he knew her dilemma.

A brief silence passed between them, though it was not actually silent at all; the rain stomped on the sidewalk outside, and Charlie twiddled with one string on the koto a little bit. “My turn!” Simone insisted, scooting over to his side. She jokingly cracked her knuckles and was surprised when Charlie handed her the three plectrums. “I have to use those?” she asked. “Why can’t I just play it with my fingers?”

He rolled his eyes. “You wanted me to teach you something, right? So Freddy Krueger yourself up, then.” Simone slipped on the plectrums without another word of protest, making an angry clawing motion at Charlie after she had done so. He gave her an exasperated look and grabbed her wrist, pulling it down towards the strings.

“Now what?” she said.

“Just pluck it, that’s all.”

She tried, but too slowly; the plectrum caught and stuck too long.

“Try it a bit faster.”

This time a low, warm, resonating tone resulted. Simone tried it a few more times which each different finger, growing more comfortable with the little claws. Charlie noticed she was pushing with her wrist, almost strumming it like a guitar, so he grabbed it again, holding it longer than necessary.. “Not like that. Just move the fingers, that’s all,” he said, demonstrating. He let go of her wrist and watched her copy his movements.

Charlie decided not to teach her any specific song; she seemed to be happiest experimenting and creating on her own. But of course, that was not at all surprising to him, knowing Simone. And quite frankly, listening to that unrestrained and unashamed creativity was more pleasant than listening to her repeat the austere, strict motions he could have taught her. She was moving her wrist funny again; he was tempted to reach out and grab it, not just to prove a point, but also just for the sake of doing so. His ears burned.

Simone absorbed herself in remembering which sequence of strings sounded nice, only to have that sequence completely destroyed every time she moved one of the bridges, which would require Charlie reaching over and helping her learn how to remember the tuning and rearrange the bridge. Still, Charlie could tell she was thoroughly enjoying herself, which was more than he could say for most of the few young students he taught over the weekend. The thought that he had helped her enjoy something like this caused a tightening sensation in his chest, and he felt his cheeks burn again. She had fit the rose back in her hair, and though it was drooping, it looked content to be reunited with its owner, Charlie remarked with a smile. He let himself lay back on the ground, looking to the window. The rain was slowing. The store was clean. There would be no time for recording tonight. He had a paper to write in two days. Suddenly, between the soft, muffled patter of the rain outside and Simone’s idle plucking, Charlie felt himself crushed with the urge to do nothing but sit here. Here, sitting beside Simone, surrounded by music of all sorts. That was all he wanted at that moment.
Kameron dripped all over the hallway of his apartment building as he searched for his keys.

"Yes!" he cried in triumph as he slipped the key in the lock. God what a long day.

He hung up his wet jacket and threw his keys on the table. His apartment was small but really nice. It had just been all updated with hardwood floors and a state of the art kitchen and bathroom a few weeks before he moved in. He got it for pretty cheap, since he had worked out a deal with the landlord to fix anything that went wrong in his and the other three apartments for next to nothing. It was a pretty sweet deal for Kameron, as he spent years growing up helping his dad fix up old houses.

Opening up the fridge door was a little disapointing. Why couldn't they invent self stocking fridges? Settling for a ham sandwich and some stale chips from the cupboard, Kam ate his lonely sandwich, and wondered what everyone from the store was doing tonight.

After eating and cleaning up, Kam went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. He then went to the bedroom and turned on the answering machine to get his messages like he did every night after work. Stripping his clothes off on the way back to the shower, Kam listened to the first message from his mother. He stepped under the hot water and sighed as he felt all the tension of the day fade away. His relaxation was short lived though, and as he heard the next voice on the machine, Kam froze.

A voice from his past echoed through the bathroom.

"Kammie, I'm so glad I finally found you!"

Kam felt his heart stop. It was Lindsay.

"Kam, baby. I'm so sorry. It was a mistake. It only happened that one time, I swear! You have to believe me. I haven't talked to him since that day."

Kam just wanted it to stop, but her voice, almost like some disembodied ghost, continued.

"I need to see you Kam. I miss you. I want to make it up to you. I need you Kam, you are my soulmate. I'll do anything you want, just please forgive me."

Just as Kam thought it was finally over, he heard six words that terrified him more than he had ever been in his life.

"I'm coming to find you Kam."


Kameron stood frozen in the shower for what seemed like an eternity, unable to move or even breathe. When he was finally able to move again, he dried off, wrapped the towel around his waist, and swiped the fog off the mirror with his hand. Staring at his reflection, he decided right then and there that he would not run again.

After getting dressed and running some gel through his messy blonde hair, Kam decided that it was time to confess his past to someone that might truly listen. Dialing the cell phone number that was in the work directory, he prayed that Simone would answer.
 

         Davy darted through the rain up to his front door and turned the key in the lock. He'd left his drum in the car, no sense spending the night drying and cleaning the fragile instrument, and he looked forward to getting online and ordering pizza to celebrate. He about jumped out of his skin, though, when his cell vibrated. Staggering inside, he flipped open the device and smiled. His roommate, Steve, older brother of a friend, had sent him a text to tell him he was out with his girlfriend for the night and not to wait up.

         Pizza, thought Davy, sliding into the chair in front of his laptop, you are all mine!

         'OK,' he messaged back. The reply came almost right away: 'Have a good practice?'

         'Yep. Got a job.'

         'Congrats! Where?'

         'Music store. Show U later.'

         'OK. See ya.'

         'Bye.'

         Flexing his fingers, Davy got his pizza ordered, double cheese, double pepperoni, and extra garlic, and then checked his email. He ignored the one from his mother and laughed at his baby sister's forwarded jokes, but there was nothing else, and he still had another forty-five minutes before the pizza showed. Going to the window he stared out. What a day.

         He hadn't expected to be hired like that, with just the barest of interviews and no application. He really hadn't expected to start working right away.

         "Saturdays are busy," Corey had told him. "We'll start you as cashier, maybe move on to something else later. Here, Juliet will show you the ropes." And then, without further ado, he'd pushed Davy right at his first customer.

         Davy had never worked a day in his life, other than the occassional odd job or the lawnmowing in the summertime. His only experience with a cash register was watching from the other side. Still, as Juliet showed him, it hadn't looked too hard, and he'd been able to handle himself, he thought, fairly well by the end of the day. He'd gone into the store without his usual pad and pencil, but Juliet had scrounged some scratch paper and pens and he'd been able to ask her what he needed to know. She showed him around the store during breaks in the chaos and let him know that he could sign up to use the classrooms, the drum room in particular, whenever he wanted, when he wasn't on shift and there wasn't a class, of course.

         "Corey given you a schedule yet?"

         He shook his head and wrote, 'Can work any day 'cept Tues/Thurs nights and Sat mornings. Practice.'

         She arched a brow at that. "Practice? What for?"

         He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. Pulling out his wallet again, he showed her a picture of a few friends at the Arizona Highland Games back in February. They all wore their uniform kilts and Juliet didn't disappoint. She snickered.

         "So ... you wear those all proper-like?"

         Davy sighed and rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.

         "How do you play, when you can't hear?"

         He wrote: 'Like driving a car. I watch. Bass keeps the beat, and the Drum Sergeant gives the cues for the rest, based on what the pipes are doing.'

         "Oh."

         'I have trouble when we march sometimes, so that's why my position's in the back. In competition, we circle up, so it's really no trouble at all.'

         In addition to showing him around the store, Juliet also introduced Davy to all the other employees, in the few minutes they weren't helping customers. Saturdays were the busiest days; everyone worked Saturday, and all the federal holidays that fell on Mondays. Summer was also, generally, less busy than during the school year, but the rare and antique business than Kameron had built up, the CD collection, private lessons, and recording gigs more than made up for the difference.

         "One of the slower days during the week, someone'll show you how to work the booths," said Juliet. "Now," she pointed him back to the register, "Let's see you help these guys totally on your own."

         Davy flopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV. Steve had turned off the captioning again, but there was nothing on anyway. He yawned. Maybe he'd just nap until the pizza arrived. It'd been a long, very full day.

Yeah, a nap sounds good ....

"Corey, I feel bad about Rin's guitar," Juliet said Corey's car rounded the corner towards the court house.
"I know I do to. I mean if our instruments aren't safe at Vinyl,"
"What is," Juliet finished. Corey looked over at her. She smiled softly and got out of the car.
"You don't have to wait for me. Jeff said he would come pick me up on his way to Kameron's show," She said leaning in to his car. It was still raining and Juliet was getting soaked standing there.
"Just get inside," Corey said. Juliet smiled and ran toward the doors of the courthouse, holding her bag over her head. Corey shook his head and pulled out his cell phone. It rang a few times before,
"What do you want?"
"Rin, hey I was just calling to check up on you," Corey said. He heard Rin sigh. "How are you doing?"
"Well considering that my signed guitar was just completely demolished," Rin said.
"Yeah I know, stupid question."
"Kind of. Look Corey, I've been thinking a lot about working at Vinyl,"
Corey could see what was coming. "Wait! Rin, come on. You've been working there for almost a year. Vinyl is home,"
"For you guys. I'm not one of you."
"Okay, okay. Just give us a few days. Please?" When Rin didn't respond he said again, "Please?" He heard her sigh heavily again.
"Okay Corey, for you," she said. Corey smiled.
"Good! So I'll see you at the store tomorrow?"
"I don't even work tomorrow."
"Well, now you do."
"Fine, bye." Rin hung up the phone. Corey laughed to himself and looked up toward the courthouse where Juliet was running down the steps. It made him smile even more, which so few things in this world did. He didn't understand the feelings that this girl gave him. He didn't like them, but then, he did.
Juliet opened the door. "I talked to Jeff and he said I can meet him at the show. You wanna take me?" She smiled.
"Looking like that?" He asked.
"I don't care, who am I trying to impress?" She pulled down the mirror and wiped some of the running mascara off her cheeks. Her bun was in a soppy mess at the top of her head, and stray hairs were drying into curls around her face. She smiled at him again, and Corey's stomach knotted almost painfully. He turned back to the road and started the car.
"Rin's really messed up about the guitar. We should do something for her," Corey told Juliet. She nodded thoughtfully.
"You know, I thought about doing something. But what?" Juliet shook her head so that beads of water shot around.
"I don't know. I'll have to think of something."
Corey continued to drive, careful not to look over at her. He was scared that if he did, he wouldn't be able to look away. Juliet had pulled off the T-shirt she was wearing to reveal a tank-top underneath. She searched through her bag for a dry shirt.
"I love watching Kameron perform," she said suddenly.
"Oh, do you?"
"Yeah I love that he's following his dream. I mean all of us at Vinyl love music and have all these dreams, but he's the only one with the balls enough to go out there and persue it. And he's brilliant on the guitar."
Corey felt his grip tighten on the steering wheel. Was that jealousy he was feeling? Corey had never been jealous of anyone or anything in his life. He had always known that Kameron was that sort of charmingly handsome musician, but had never thought about it beyond the girls that came into the store to stare at him. Juliet had certainly never mentioned anything about him.
His mind had been whirling so much that he hardly realized they were already at the show. Juliet had put another shirt on and was putting on lipgloss. "Well," she said. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow? Unless you want to come in?"
"Not my scene so much," Corey told her. He saw a hint of dissapointment on her face, maybe. She looked so beautiful. Juliet started to turn. "Wait," Corey said. He wasn't even aware of what he was doing, really. It was like he was watching someone else who looked just like him. This other person was pulling Juliet in and kissing her. Yet, even though it wasn't him doing it, he was quite aware of how good she felt and tasted.
A knock on the window made them both jump back. Jeff stood outside the car, wearing a look that Corey couldn't decipher. Juliet looked from Jeff to Corey, unable to conceal the smile on her face.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said softly. She got out of the car and walked past Jeff before he could say anthing. Corey sunk into seat and covered his face. The mixture of happiness, embarassment, and fear was doing bad things to his insides. Jeff opened the door wider.
"We'll talk later," he said. He shut the door and followed after Juliet. Despite his fear at angering his best friend, Corey couldn't help but smile.
Every part of her burned. The parts of her that didn't burn were fluttering with anxiousness. That hadn't really happened, had it? No, Corey had not just kissed her. She was dreaming. She'd fallen asleep on the way to Kameron's show and any moment now she was going to wake up and the only thing she would feel would be dissapointment.
But the soft rain falling on her arms told her that it was real. When Jeff pushed past her into the cafe, blocking her from walking, she knew that Corey had, in fact, just kissed her.
"What was that Juliet?"
"What was what?" she tried to ask innocently, but she couldn't stop smiling. Her lips felt like she had just downed a cup of ice. It was hard for her to even speak.
"Why were you kissing Corey?"
"Well, technically he kissed me, but,"
"I'm not kidding," Jeff said.
"You knew it was going to happen eventually, big brother." She look away, knowing that her smile was almost mocking. She just couldn't stop.
"What's the commotion? Kam's just about to start," Simone was standing behind Jeff. She lead Juliet away towards a corner table as Kameron set up on stage. "Now that we're away, what is the commotion?" she whispered to Juliet.
"I kissed Corey," Juliet whispered back. Simone smiled knowingly Jeff sat down at the table just as Kameron started to strum. He looked nervous, his leg was shaking slightly. Juliet found this very odd. She asked Simone what was wrong, but Simone just shrugged. Juliet could see right through that. There was something she wasn't giving up.
As Kameron finished the set, Juliet's butterflies had just started to die down. He had gone to get applauded and worshiped by the local music enthusiasts, then moved over to the table.
"I don't know about you," he said. "But I'm starving."
"I couldn't eat," Juliet said.
"Well I could go for some more coffee about now. I'm running on nearly empty," Simone added.
"Alright, let's go," Jeff said. He gave Juliet a look that made her worry about the lecture she was about to get in the car.
Simone made a run for her car as the sky opened up to more downpour. The group had decided to meet at the 26th Avenue Diner, a burger joint downtown that catered insomniac college students and late night concert goers like themselves. Surprisingly, it had been a good night. This was the first time she had listened to Kameron’s band play and they weren’t half bad. Turned out the boy had talent as well as charm. He just needed to work on his taste in women.

At every red light and stop sign Simone gazed down at the cell phone pocket of her messenger bag with a look of trepidation. Questions sped through her mind at a hundred miles per hour. Had Charlie called? Should she call him to apologize? What should she say when they do finally talk? The thoughts kept circling in her brain as she went through a minor nervous breakdown.

The scientific part of Simone tried to rationalize the situation. It had simply been the heat of the moment; a chemical reaction between two people. “It happens all the time,” she mumbled to herself. “Corey and Juliet are prime examples of that.”

But every time she relived that moment in her head, her common sense screamed that what happened between her and Charlie was not an everyday occurrence. Something that basic does not tie your stomach in knots or send you to the brink of insanity. Simone bashed her head against the steering wheel in beat with the rain drops hitting the windshield. How had she let this happen?

Inside the store had been calm and tranquil. It had been just the two of them on the floor in an orderly Vinyl. Talking with Charlie had put her in a state of peace she hadn’t felt in a long time, her lack of sleep completely forgotten. They conversed easily together about everything: family, music, and thoughts behind creativity. She admired how Charlie’s love for the instrument came across as he taught her the basic. It made the learning experience enjoyable instead of the boxed in feeling she was used to.

Simone didn’t know how much time had past as they sat there. She enjoyed discovering the music of the koto and the strange workings of the plectrums on her fingers. Completely lost in her own world, it escaped her that the rain had stopped until she happened to gaze out the window.

“The rain is gone.” When Charlie didn’t move from his position on the floor, Simone set the koto carefully back into its case and kneeled down beside him. Somewhere during their impromptu playing Charlie had fallen asleep with his hands behind his head and the goofiest grin on his face. “Charlie,” she said softly, shaking his shoulder. “Charlie, its time to go home.” He slept on undisturbed.

Going on impulse, Simone gently traced the side of his face with her fingers. Part of her didn’t have the heart to wake him. He looked so happy in his slumber. She glided the tips over his bottom lip and the light touch made his eyes fly open. Suddenly, Charlie gripped her wrist to keep her from moving.

They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity - his dark eyes colliding with hers. Gone was Charlie’s lazy smile, replaced with a look of intensity Simone had never seen before. The pressure on Simone’s wrist urged her forward. Charlie met her half way, stopping with only a breath between them. And after the barest of hesitations, their lips brushed against one another’s.

It was a small, fleeting kiss. More like the touch of a butterfly’s wing. But, however brief, the gentle contact sent her pulse racing. Charlie pulled back a bit to look at her and with his eyes asked permission to kiss her again. She smiled and leaned forward… when her cell phone rang.

Like Rin’s guitar, the moment shattered into a thousand pieces.

The parking lot was half full as Simone pulled into the diner. She forcibly pushed all thoughts of Charlie, his lovely mouth and their kinda-but-not-really kiss to the back of her mind. Focus Simone. You can deal with the strange confluence of events that make up your life later. Right now you’re going to go inside, have a cup of coffee with your co-workers and hope the night can’t get any worse.

Winding through the tables, Simone made her way to the back booth where Jeff and Juliet were in a heated stare-off. “Did you order my coffee?” she said as she slid in next to Juliet.

“Not yet. My brother dearest was just lecturing about Corey and has yet to flag down a waitress.”

The mention of Corey‘s name made the vein of Jeff’s forehead begin to throb. Simone wondered how long it would take Juliet to push him over the edge as she watched the sibling drama unfold. Grabbing a menu from the table behind them, she glanced around for Kameron. “Where’s Kameron?”

“Bathroom.”

A minute later Simone spotted him coming out from the back when a slender redhead cornered him. Kameron looked hunted. He tried to move past the girl, but she wouldn’t let him budge. A feeling of impending doom washed over Simone as she recalled the conversation she had with Kameron early that night. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Psycho Stalker Lindsay and the redhead hounding Kameron were one in the same. So much for the night not getting worse.

“Oh hell.” Simone said under her breath as she got up from the table and headed Kameron‘s way.

Lindsay’s tearful pleas could be heard by the entire diner. The crazy woman was doing her best to plaster herself all over Kameron. “Kammie, please. We were meant to be together. I came all this way just for you.”

Simone could only take so much of the pathetic display before she reached her limit. Taking hold of Kameron’s hand, Simone turned him to face her then threw her arms around his neck. The look on Kameron’s face was priceless. “Simone wha-” Simone blocked Kameron’s response with the only way she knew how - she kissed him.

After Simone breaks the kiss she gazes up at Kameron with lovefilled eyes, 'Hello Love. Did you miss me?"
Rin was lying on top of her ed, staring at the poster of Rage Against the Machine, thinking about Vinyl. She knew it was a great store, not to metion place to work, but no one seemed to accept her. That idiot kid just tipped her over the edge. It was like they were all sectioned off into pairs and she was the odd number. She supposed tomorrow would be her last day of work, unless a miracle occured.

In an attempt to clear her head, she walked outside, grabbing a bridle and mounted her black stallion, turned him towards the forest behind her family's property and set off at a gallop. Tomorrow would be an interesting day.

"Did Simone just kiss Kameron?" Juliet said suddenly. Jeff had been examing some salt he has spilled on the table, spinning it in different arrangements with his fingers.
"What?" Jeff looked over to the corner where the red-head had cornered Kameron earlier. The girl was still shouting, and Simone was holding onto Kameron like a love-struck teenager. Kameron looked completely bewildered.
"She just kissed him! I saw it!" Juliet's voice was high , like it usually was when she got excited.
"What is with everyone kissing each other?" Jeff said matter-of-factly. He looked to Juliet. She blushed and shrunk back into her seat. He didn't know whether the kiss between Simone and Kameron was serious or meant anything at all. If it was, more power to them. It was the kiss between his best friend and his baby sister that had him concerned.
The girl's voice was getting louder. "This won't be the last time you see me!" she shouted. "I came here for you and I'm going to get you!" She turned from them and stomped out of the diner.
Kameron and Simone wandered over to them, Kameron still looking like a lost deer.
"What was that?" Juliet asked.
"Don't ask me," Kameron replied. Simone shrugged, telling them nothing more should be thought of it. They sat down and ordered their food, then all parted ways for some much needed sleep.

"So what's going to happen tomorrow?" Jeff asked Juliet.
"I don't know. I don't even know how he really thinks of me," she said. She was still smiling, though, so Jeff found it hard to believe her.
"Look, Corey's not a good guy Juliet."
"He's your best friend!"
"Exactly, which means I know quite a bit about him. I know how he treats girls, and I don't want that happening to you." Jeff tried to concentrate on the road, and his car slipped a bit on the rain.
"I'm not stupid," Juliet mumbled.
"Neither were a lot of the girls that Corey's used."
Juliet didn't say anything the rest of the way home. Jeff was feeling sick to his stomach. He'd always known about Juliet's crush, but he'd thought it just that, a little girl's crush. He never thought Corey would actually try anything, out of respect for Jeff. He really cared about Corey, the guy had been his best friend seemingly forever. But if he even started to hurt Juliet, Jeff knew that he would pound his face in.
"Oh," Juliet said when they got home. "Rin wants to quit. So Corey's gonna plan something tomorrow to let her know she's wanted." she got out of the car and slammed the door. She pouted all the way to the house and walked in. Jeff sat in his car for a moment, thinking. He didn't want Rin to quit. She was one of those people that made boring times interesting. He wasn't scheduled to work until five tomorrow, but he figured he would go in a little early. If not for Rin, then to set Corey straight.
Kameron poured his heart out to Simone, and was not disappointed. She had a way of talking someone down. She convinced him that things would be okay, and that everyone at the store had his back. By the time she was done, he was more than ready to play his gig.

The start of the set was great, but then Kameron looked up in the middle of one song, and saw her red hair. She was in the back by the bar, blowing him kisses. He tried to play on, and thought he did really well, except he couldn't stop his damned leg from shaking.

He finished his set as fast as he could, and as he left the stage he was bombarded by the usual groupies and such. He broke free as fast as he could, and approached his friends.

"I don't know about you," he said. "But I'm starving."

"I couldn't eat," Juliet said.

"Well I could go for some more coffee about now. I'm running on nearly empty," Simone added. Kam hoped she caught on to the anxious look he was sending her.

"Alright, let's go," Jeff said. He gave Juliet a strange look.

Kam drove to the diner as fast as was legal. Jeff and Juliet were just getting there as well. Kam announced that he was going to the washroom, to save him a seat.

As he closed the door, he felt like he was going to be sick. Turning on the taps, he splashed cold water all over his face.

"Get it together man!" his reflection said.

He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He had decided to think positively for the rest of the night. He opened the door to the bathroom and walked out into the diner. That was when his happy bubble busted. Lindsay was headed straight for him. Kameron looked to both sides for a way out, but there was no way out. He was going to have to confront her.

She immediately started apologizing and begging him to take her back. She was yelling and making a fool out of herself, and that was the moment that he realized he was completely over her. As she was babbling on, he was just about to interrupt her and let her in on his epiphany, when Simone appeared out of nowhere.

She grabbed his hand and turned him to face her ,and then threw her arms around his neck. Kameron was stunned.

“Simone wha-” before he could finish, Simone kissed him, so he of course kissed back.

Simone broke the kiss and looked up at him with the gooeyish yes, 'Hello Love. Did you miss me?"

Well, that set Lindsay off. She started calling Simone a bunch of names and threatening that he wouldn't get rid of her so easily and such. Kameron was starting to think along the lines of restraining order, but then remembered how much her mother hated him. If he called her and told her how much of a fool her daughter was making of herself over him, someone would be sent to retrieve Lindsay. To her mother, image was everything.

As they were walking over to the table after Lindsay stormed out, Kam was trying to think of a way to thank Simone, but ran out of time.

"What was that?" Juliet asked.

"Don't ask me," Kameron replied with a grin. Aw, let them stew for awhile.

Simone shrugged, telling them nothing more should be thought of it. They sat down and ordered their food, then all parted ways for some much needed sleep.

Kameron wasted no time once he got home. He called up Lindsay's mom, told her what was going on, and played her back the answering machine messages when she didn't believe him. By the end of the conversation, he was relieved. Lindsay would be out of town by noon tomorrow.

Then Kameron called a 24 hour florist and arranged to have a very pricey bouquet of exotic flowers sent to Vinyl for Simone. On the card he told them to write. Thanks for last night. Kam. He felt his mischievous side starting to emerge again after almost a year. That'll give someone a shock if they decide to snoop and open the card on her.

Kameron stripped to his underwear and headed to bed with a big smile on his face. Life was finally starting to have some light at the end of the dark tunnel.
So I accidently skipped t.s. wood right before they made their addition. So here it is


Charlie did everything in silence. In what seemed like the blink of an eye,
the cleaning kits had been all replaced, the music stand was in its corner, the
lights were off, the koto was hidden away in the storage closet, and the back
door was being locked.

A light mist had replaced the earlier downpour, clinging to Charlie’s hair as
he shuffled down the sidewalk. He had been wondering about catching a ride to
the diner; part of him still felt obligated to go, but he couldn’t bring
himself to go. “Besides,” he said to himself, “I’ve got a few more boxes to
pack.”

He was moving out tomorrow, into a small apartment with a cousin who had moved
back to town to be around family. Charlie had promised his parents- and mostly
himself- that he would be out of the house within a year after high school. He
could tell they were both relieved and reluctant; his older sister had left two
years ago. And so Charlie was both his parents’ last burden and their last
bright spot. Still, he would be going to work tomorrow, if only for the last
half of the day.

This night, his home was not far from Vinyl; tomorrow it would be far enough to
require taking the bus, so Charlie took this chance to relish the ability to
walk the short distance back. He dawdled, staring into every closed
storefront, every dim restaurant, every late-night business. He told himself
that it was just because this was his last short walk home, that he should
enjoy it. But every time he looked into a window he couldn’t help but see a
group of people together, and he had to look away. There was something, he
knew, that he was missing.

He was home late, and a stab of guilt hit him. His tired mother had wanted him
home for dinner one last time before moving away, and she didn’t bother to use
any amount of restraint in telling him so. Charlie tried to calmly apologize.
“There was a bit of a mess at the store today,” he said, hoping that would
suffice. But something in his face and his voice gave whatever was festering
inside of him away. His parents looked at him cautiously.

“Did something happen?”

Charlie coughed. “Well, there was some crazy kid who had to be dragged out. A
guitar got smashed. That’s it.”

His mother wisely decided to leave it at that. His father, on the other hand,
did not, and Charlie was neither amused nor relieved to hear him following his
son as he trudged off to sort the remaining items in his room into a cardboard
box. He better not fucking do this, Charlie thought, gritting his teeth
as he deliberately bent over to pick up a stack of CDs. But his father did it
anyway- in hushed Japanese, he started speaking to him. This was always what
he did when he suspected something amiss, and when he suspected his children
would be less uncomfortable talking around one parent, rather than two.

“Saa. Doushitan darou? Nanka atten da na. What’s wrong? Something happened,
didn’t it?” He was casually leaning against the doorpost, his arms crossed.
Charlie shot him a furious look from over his shoulder, and refusing to play
along in the language game said, “It’s obviously nothing I want to say to you.”
He forcefully dropped the CDs into a half-full box. “Especially when you do
that.” He hated how his father assumed that he was somehow a more appealing
audience for difficult conversation.

His father sighed and ran a leathery hand through his thinning hair. “Why not?
If it’s something you don’t want your mom to hear-“

“You’ll just tell her anyway.”

“So there is something, then?”

Charlie let out an exasperated breath. “Just drop it, okay?”

“This is you last night living with us. I don’t want you to spend it upset.”

He heard his mother’s footsteps nearby, and he was forced to lower his voice to
a frustrated hiss. “So then just stop doing this!” Charlie all but threw the
box on the ground. “Pretend I’ve moved out already. I’m gone. Bye! No one
to talk to!” He briskly turned back to the box. There was a low mumble from
the door- in English or Japanese he couldn’t tell- and then the receding
footsteps of his father going to bed.

Pushing a mouthful of air through his teeth, Charlie surveyed his
soon-to-be-former room. There were pale spots on the walls from where the
posters of his childhood baseball heroes and favorite music artists had once
been. The small bookshelf was bare but for his little league trophies and some
books he had decided not too take. The closet was empty, the floor was bare,
the right corner was filled with a small clutter of boxes. He had a pillow and
some blankets out on the mattress for that evening; in the morning, those would
be packed away as well. Charlie pulled off his damp shirt, kicked off his
shoes and socks, and slid out of his jeans. It was good to cast off that day’s
clothes, the first real relief he had felt all day washing over him. But
whatever relief this was, it was soon stolen quickly away from him.

His tiny CD player was still plugged into the wall. Feeling neither an urge
nor an ability to sleep, he thrust his hand into the box of CDs, drew out
something blindly, and briskly shoved it into the CD player, pressing the
random button. Charlie fell onto his bed and waited for the music. And then
it started. At first he didn’t recognize it- so much time had passed since he
first listened to it. But those first fuzzy, distorted strums of a guitar,
those thumps of the drums and the crash of the cymbal- he winced as the Pixies
song “Velouria” filled his ears. Why this song? Why now, playing so softly
yet thundering in his head? It was exactly what he didn’t need. The melody,
triumphant yet broken, and slightly mocking- and the words in that rusty voice-
they made no sense on their own, but put together they shoved an invisible,
razor-sharp claw deep into Charlie and pulled out everything he had been hiding
about that day, holding it out in the open for him to acknowledge once again.
Shastasheen and evergreen and lemur skin- it didn’t matter what nonsense the
song was actually made of. All that mattered was that it threw Charlie right
back onto the floor of Vinyl, it made him feel that wrist in his hand, that
touch on his mouth. That almost horrified look on her face just before she ran
outside.

Charlie squirmed and rolled onto his side. He wanted the song to stop, to be
over. But for all his guilt of that day- thinking badly of his coworkers,
sneaking around where he shouldn’t be, baffling Simone, upsetting his parents-
he couldn’t help but feel some sort of joy in reliving that brief, fleeting
moment with the music.

In the warm darkness of the room he would soon leave, he found himself softly
singing along. “My Velouria…”
 

         Davy slept with his phone attached to his sweats. He'd found that the vibration of either alarm or ring were a sure-fire way to rouse him out of sleep, so he was up and swinging his legs over the side of his bed before his eyes fell on the clock. 0217. Rubbing his eyes, he reached for the phone. He waited and, a minute or two later, it vibrated again, three times. Davy frowned. If the phone had rung full to voice-mail just previously, then that was the emergency signal. The caller id listed Davy's friend Jay as the caller. Again he waited, this time for the text message.

         'I'm on your step, man. Let me in.'

         Davy's mouth dropped open a little. Shock woke him up the rest of the way.

         The second message: 'Please?'

         He rose and padded across the apartment to the door. Unbolting the locks, he swung the door open wide and glared at the sopping wet spectacle on the porch.

         What are you doing here? Davy signed.

         Jay shrugged, speaking and signing at the same time. "Told my folks I was gay and they tossed me out."

         "What?" squeaked Davy. He beckoned Jay in, and then stopped him, grabbing Jay's arm and signing, Have you been drinking?

         "Yea -- ow!" Jay glared back at Davy, rubbing the back of his head where he'd been smacked.

         Davy ignored him and looked outside. Jay's beat-up Chevy was parked neatly enough. He shut the door and turned back to his friend. He shook his head and pushed him into the bathroom.

         Get out of those wet things. I'll make tea.

         While he waited, Davy sent a text to his sister: 'SOS re Jay.' She would call as soon as she woke up. Jay came out of the bathroom shortly, dry and wrapped in Davy's robe. He accepted the mug of tea and sat down at the table.

         Why didn't you go to my folks? Davy inquired. They'd have let you stay with them.

         "I know,"
Jay answered, having the decency to flush in embarassment. "But I didn't think of it until I was almost here."

         And Karl?

         "Dumped me. That's why I was drinking."


         Davy sighed and settled back in his chair. Tell me everything.

         "Nothing to tell, really. Karl said he didn't want a long-distance relationship. I got smashing drunk and blurted out everything to my folks when they started reading me the riot act."

         Duh,
signed Davy. And so you had to come driving all the way out here? Drunk? Were you suicidal?

         "No, got pretty well sobered up when dad handed me my ass back out the front door."
He frowned. "Mom started crying, moaning something about grandchildren. Dad went ballistic, and he was already pissed. Geez, Davy, what am I going to do?"

         You're going to go home.

         "What? No way, man."

         Not right away,
Davy replied quickly. I'll ask my dad to talk to your dad. If they still want you out, Dad'll at least help you pack out your stuff. And I'll come up to help, too.

         "You better. Helped you move, didn't I?"

         Yeah. When you got to head out to BYU?

         "Last week of August, or there-abouts. Orientation is right after Labor Day."

         Okay, then here's what we do. You can stay here until we get the word from my dad. Then we go visit your folks, help you move out if we need to -- was going to do that anyway, right? And then take it from there. If you want, you can stay here until you have to head out.

         "Thanks, man."

         I'll warn you, though, the couch isn't really comfortable, and I'll have to clear things with Steve.

         "Okay."
Jay pushed aside his mug and laid his head in his arms.

         Hey, you still carry your pipes in your truck?

         "Yeah. Why?"

         How do you feel about helping me cheer up a very sad, very pretty lady?


         Jay frowned, worried. "I dunno, man."

         You owe me.

         "Hard to argue with that, I guess."
Jay sighed and sat up. "What do you have in mind?"

         Davy's hands moved in the plan he'd started envisioning while he ate and watched a movie earlier. He explained all about the music store and the kid and the guitar. As he'd hoped, the idea of cheering up someone else lifted Jay's spirits and he started really getting into it, expanding the fledgling event into a real spectacle. Ever organized, Jay grabbed one of Davy's legal pads and started making a list of needed supplies.

         They left early the following morning, cruising for a 24-hour Walgreens or Walmart or Target or something. They didn't get everything they wanted, even after stopping at three different stores, but they did manage to score balloons, confetti, streamers, a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey kit, miscellaneous party favors, cinqo de mayo decorations, and fake flowers. The real prize was what appeared to be a paper-mache violin case. With a little care, Jay drilled a hole in the bottom and filled the mini-guitar, as he called it, with candy. They grabbed some more pinata tools and, an hour before opening time, Davy knocked on the back door of Vinyl.

         Corey, Juliet had told him, always arrived early to make sure things were ready for opening. The rest of the opening crew normally arrived between a half-hour and fifteen minutes before opening. Corey opened the door right away. He must have been close by. He stared for a full minute at the two young men on the step, clad in their kilts, arms full of bags.

         Jay spoke up when Davy nudged him with an elbow. "Uh, Davy says he knows he doesn't have to work today, but he wants to help cheer up Rin."

         "And that involves ...?" The older boy trailed off, looking them up and down.

         Your boss is hot! Jay mouthed at Davy. Davy rolled his eyes and kicked him.

         "Pinatas and a funeral!" chirped Jay, sticking his tongue out at Davy. "I'm here to help. Name's Jay McLeod."

         "Pinatas and a ...?" Corey shook his head. "Do I want to know?"

         "C'mon, man, we're just here to cheer up the lady. Can you let us in? I want to get set up so I can tune."

         "Tune?"

         "Gee, you always this awake in the morning?" Jay teased. "Yeah, tune. I'm the pipes of this outfit. Me an'Davy were in Pipe Band together."

         "Um, sure. You can set up the, uh," he eyed the bags, "party in practice room four."

         "Way cool, man, thanks."

         Davy smiled, too, and they unloaded in the designated room, hanging up all the black and white streamers and over-the-hill decorations inter-mixed with the Cinqo de Mayo stuff. They dragged in some chairs and set out donuts, bagels, and juice for refreshments. Hopefully, someone else would make a coffee run.

         "What is that?" asked Corey, checking back in on them and pointing to the make-shift pinata.

         Jay covered it with a red cloth. "Hey, man, no mocking the deceased. You got a cart of some kind?"

         Once they were set up, the pinata resting under its covering on a small, wheeled cart in the guitar section, and the flower bouquet on top, Jay and Davy retreated back to the practice room so that Jay could tune and they could practice the handful of songs they'd agreed on. As the others started to arrive, Davy gathered them together to try and explain things. He'd spent a few minutes writing down a short message for them.

         We're holding a funeral for Rin's guitar, he wrote, holding up the pad. Wake to follow in the practice room. He pointed. Act serious!

         A few minutes before Rin was due to arrive, Davy hooked on his drum, Jay grabbed his pipes, and the whole crew gathered somberly around the draped cart. Jay started to play an old celtic tune, slowed down into a dirge. Davy kept time on the drum.

         The plan unfolded as if they'd rehearsed for days. Standing guard by the door, Juliet signaled when Rin pulled up. The rest of Vinyl's staff looked suitably downcast and somber, standing in a half-circle around the 'coffin.' Jay played spectacularly, the pipes lending the scene a macabre and surreal quality and Davy showcased some of his talents, but he couldn't help breaking the mood by smirking out of one corner of his face from time to time, and winking at Rin.

         The last song was taps. Corey walked up to the cart, removed the flowers and handed them to Rin. Then he whipped off the cloth and began to push the cart around the store to the back, following after Davy and Jay. Juliet escorted Rin directly behind, and the rest of the staff followed, by this time fighting to hold back chuckles and giggles.

         They did a complete circle of the store and stopped outside the practice room. Jay and Davy took up their places on either side of the door to complete the song. Corey stopped the cart and ceremoniously removed the 'guitar,' carrying it inside. Once in, he attached the string to make a pinata. The staff clustered around as Corey handed the baton to Rin, and Davy and Jay concluded their musical accompaniment.

         "Give it a whack!" said Corey with a wicked grin.

         More items clustered around the room, brought in by others, and Rin looked at each of them, all smiles and laughter, cheering her on. Davy brought his drumsticks against his drumhead in a muffled drum roll, flashing Rin a wide smile.

         The pinata burst in a rain of candy and the room filled with laughter and more cheers. Standing under the shower, Rin smiled, and then laughed. Davy and Jay gave each other a high-five.

         Way to go, man! mouthed Jay. No room for angst this morning.

         Davy grinned back. Mission accomplished.

"I still haven't decided," Rin said to Corey as they picked up the candy. Corey smiled to himself, however, at the smile she was trying desperately to conceal. He had managed to avoid Juliet and Jeff all morning, and now, he stuck by Rin. After five minutes, she seemed a bit creeped out by his shadow-act.

"Can I help you?" she said suddenoly. He decided to abandon it for something more sucessful.

"Good job, kid," he told Davey, patting him on the shoulder. Davey nodded proudly. Corey walked toward the back to do his morning inventory, something he had forgotten in all the morning commotion. Jeff was sitting on the couch in the back, his arms folded over his chest. Corey had never though of Jeff as an intimidating person, but at that moment the sight of him terrified Corey.

"So are you going to avoid me all day or are we going to talk about what happened last night?" Jeff asked.

"What, man?" Corey replied. He tried to act non-chalant over it, but the truth of the matter was that he had been thinking about that kiss all night. This morning, he realized that he had never truly grasped just how beautiful Juliet was. Now that she was avoiding him as well, it seemed to make him only want her more. But over the course of the night Corey had decided if he had to choose between Jeff and Juliet, his best friend of years would have to win.

"Why did you kiss my sister?"

"I didn't mean to, it just, it just happened," Corey said.

"Oh, that's great! You know how she feels about you and you just kiss her like that. Way to play with her heart!" Jeff stood up. Corey unconciously took a step back, preparing to feel Jeff's fist collide with his face.

"No, I don't mean it like that. I've always felt something for her but I told myself I wouldn't do anything because of you. But last night," Corey looked away. He felt sick to his stomach. Jeff took another step toward him.

"Do you really care about her?" He asked. Corey bit his lip.

"I, I think so. I've never felt this way about a girl before."

"You're my best friend, and I care about you a lot. But if you hurt her, I'll fucking kill you." Without another word Jeff left the back room. Corey fell down on the couch and hid his face in his hands. What had he gotten himself into? Last night had certainly been one interesting night. The door swung open again and Juliet walked in, holding a bouquet of roses. She stopped dead, apparently not expecting Corey to be in there. He looked at the roses questioningly.

"Oh," she said. "They're for Simone. She's not here." She stood still for a moment, biting her lip. Corey started to say something, but Juliet cut him off.


"Do you want to talk about what happened last night?" Juliet said the words quickly, before she lost the courage.

Getting readiny that morning had been torture. Every peice of clothing she put on made her wonder if Corey would hate it. Everything she did, she thought might make him realize that he didn't really have feelings for her. It was a horrible feeling. She'd done her best to avoid him all morning. But now, here he was. She had just walked straight into him.

"I guess we should, right?" Corey said. Juliet nodded, feeling completely aware of every part of her body. It felt awkward and out of place. She wanted to hide behind something. Her stomach was doing weird things. She wanted to throw up and pass out all at teh same time.

"I guess the question is, what did it mean?" Corey said. Juliet nodded again. Her lips felt numb. That first outburst of courage had left her lips unable to speak anymore. "What did it mean for you?" he asked.

"I think you know," she managed to find the words. Her legs were beginning to shake. She had to get out of there, away from them. "What did it mean to you?"

"I think," Corey began to say. The doors swung open and Davey ,the knew boy, stood there. He made a motion like a trumpet and pointed towards the brass center. Then he pointed towards Juliet.

Juliet looked to Corey. "Station?" she asked. He shrugged his shoulders but didn't say anything. She sighed heavily and walked out to the brass room where Brian, the boy from the day before, and one of her friends from percussion were waiting.

The knots in her stomach were slowly untying themselves but she still felt nervous and apprehensive.

"Mia?" She asked. "What are you doing here?" The percussion girl turned around with a huge smile and hugged Juliet.

"Well I haven't seen my bestie in like a week, too busy working. We had a band meeting and Mr. Linkman sent Brian to get mutes and I wanted to come along." She smiled again and suddenly Juliet was relieved to see such a close, non-vinyl friend. Of course Mia knew all about Corey, but she didn't know him, and she desperately needed someone that fit that description. But Brian was there too, and she didn't like divulging her personal life in front of strangers. For all purposes, he was a stranger. She looked at the boy, who actually had a very weird look on his face.

"I'll get you guys the mutes," she said. She leaned in towards Mya and whispered "I need to talk to you. It's about Corey." Mia raised an eyebrow in question. Juliet frowned. Mia jumped and screamed. "Stop! Stop! Anyone hears you and it's judgement city." But Juliet couldn't help but laugh.

To get to inventory where all the stocked mutes were, she would have to go through the office. She didn't see Corey in the store so he had to be there still.

"Rin!" She called her over.

"Huh?" Rin didn't look to happy to be taken away from the guitar center, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

"I need you to go to the back and get me a box of mutes, assorted."

"Can't you? Isn't Corey back there anyway?"

"That's the point," Juliet said. Rin narrowed her eyes in confusion.

"We kissed last night," Juliet figured that everyone would find out eventually. News like that was not kept for long at Vinyl. She nodded, with a hint of a smile.

"Alright. I'll be back."

Juliet watched her go to the back while the doors opened and Simone walked in. Juliet told Mia and Brian to hold on while she went to go tell her about the flowers.

During early afternon, Simone slipped out to the coffee shop around the corner and made a caffeine run. She didn't rush with the errand... she couldn't. Her body had lost the ability for warp speed somewhere around the third day of lost sleep. She had consumed so much coffee in the past three days Simone was convinced the blood in her veins had been replaced with the stuff.

Simone walked in from the back with a full beverage carrier. Rin sauntered by in the opposite direction and stopped in from of her. "You lost the bet. You owe me lunch."

It took a couple of seconds for the synases in her brain to fire together before she finally remembered what Rin was talking about. Long ago the both of them wagered how long it would take Corey and Juliet to make a move. Rin, who Simone secretly thought was an eternal optimist, bet within six months. Simone on the hand was a pragmatist at heart and thought Corey would hold out until Juliet graduated high school.

Simone rubbed her tired eyes. Luck was just not on her side these days. "It was a sucker's bet. I should have known better."

"I'll come get you a break?" Rin asked as she took some coffee. Simone nodded her head and walked over to the percussion section. She passed a scowling Jeff along with way.
He grabbed a cup and mumbled what Simone could only assume was a thank you and disappeared behind into one of the practice rooms. She didn't take the lack of communication personally. After the morning's excitement everyone was starting to drag.

Just as she was about to take her first sip, Juliet came over and pointed to the front counter. "You've got a flower delivery." Flowers? Who the hell would send me flowers? Simone turned to ask Juliet who sent them and stopped. Looking closely, she noticed that Juliet's usual smirk was absent from her face. "You okay? You look like someone ran over your puppy."

Juliet gave a half-hearted smile. "You don't look so good yourself."

Simone tried not to imagine how she looked but her brain projected a mental picture anyway. In a sleep-deprived haze, Simone's choices of clothing were the first clean things she could find in her room. Unfortunately, that led to slipping on a pair of jeans with large holes in the legs, a brown Jimi Hendrix t-shirt with a bleach stain on the sleeve and her dreds were in complete disarray. Simone was pretty sure she resembled disaster victim.

Juliet sighed as Simone handed her one of the cups of coffee. She frowned down at it. "I just had an awkward conversation with Corey."

"Ah yes. The kiss. How did things go?"

"To be honest, I really don't know. One minute, I felt on top of the world. Now, things are really weird between us."

Simone glanced down at the spot on the floor where she and Charlie had sat the evening before. "I know what you mean," she said under her breath. Thankfully, Juliet didn't hear her as she stepped ahead and grabbed the bouquet.

"These came this morning while you were gone." She handed the vase over along with a small card.

The vase of roses ranged in all different colors - blood reds, sunshine yellows, deep violets, pure whites and hybrids in shades of pink and cream. Simone smiled and buried in nose in the fragrant blossoms. They were simply beautiful.

"Speaking of kisses, what's going on between you and Kameron?"

"Nothing. Just helping him with a little problem." Simone opened the card and read it. Thanks for last night, Kam. Her smile widened. The impromptu plan to get rid of the stalker girl obviously worked. At least that went well, she thought.

Juliet grabbed the card from her hands and smirked. "You must have some amazing problem-solving skills. No wonder you're so tired." Simone opened her mouth to refute the allegation when the bell over the entrance rang. Charlie walked into Vinyl with his backpack over his shoulder and stopped as their eyes came into contact. Familiar knots began to tie themselves in Simone's stomach. She felt elation, guilt, and nervousness flowed through her system all at once.

"Hey Charlie! Look at the flowers Simone got from Kameron."

Simone inwardly winced. Luck was definitely not on her side.

"So how did it all work out Rin?" Jeff asked, shuffling towards the guitar section.

"Corey told you didn't he?" She narrowed her eyes in a way that told him she knew something about him. At least, in a roundabout way.

"Juliet told you too, didn't she?"

Rin lifted the side of her mouth into a smile. "What's going on over there?" She nodded towards the cashier station where Simone was holding a large bouquet of flowers. Charlie stood in front of her, and Juliet was behind her looking concerned.

"I swear this place is like high school," Rin mumbled.

"No kidding." Jeff turned back to her. "I need to get out of here, you hungry or anything?"

"Rin shrugged. "Well neither of us are scheduled to work so,"

Jeff grabbed her arm and led her out of the store. He was grateful to feel the air outside. Everyone was have relationship issues. Juliet and Corey had kissed, Simone was stuck in some love triangle with Charlie and Kameron. Or so it would seem. He rolled down his windows as they pulled away from the store. He hadn't had any kind of relationship since Bridgette. Not only had he not found any interesting girls, but no girls had found him interesting.

They went to a small cafe around the corner, where they had picked up coffee the day before.When they sat, Jeff asked ,"So what's the real story?"

Rin shrugged. "I don't know. I just always feel out of place at the store. Everyone couples up and it's just weird."

Jeff laughed. He knew exactly what she was talking about, and it was becoming more prevelant. He sighed heavily. "Well, there's a new guy. Maybe everything will even itself out."

"Or they'll all break up and start hating each other," Rin said with a smile. Jeff laughed again.

"What can I get for you?" The waitress was next to them, a young girl, looking frazzled. Her auburn hair was in two braids but stray peices had come out and were stuck to her face. She was a very pretty girl. Very pretty.

Rin ordered and the girl turned to Jeff. Her expression softened as she asked, "And you?" It took Jeff a little time to get his thoughts together. He never was suave, or even collected, around beautiful gils. That was Corey's gig. Once he ordered the girl smiled at him and turned the other way.

"Gag," Rin said. Jeff shook his head. They talked through the meal, it was the most Jeff had ever talked to her. He had always liked her, thought she kept things fun in Vinyl, but he had never really sat down and had a conversation with her.

"I got the meal," he said as the waitress approached. She placed the check down in front of him.

"Customer copy," she said softly and walked away. Jeff looked down at the slip where a number was scribbled across, under the name Gwendolyn and over the words "call me". Jeff's stomach tightened into a thousand knots. Had that really just happened? Had a beautiful girl just offered up her number, without him making a complete ass of himself?

"What's that?" Rin asked.

"Nothing." Jeff put the check in his pocket as they left the cafe.
A Non-Existent User
Charlie had never been good at hiding his feelings. Even without a smile or frown, it was obvious to the whole world what he felt. And because of this, he instinctively turned away sharply and swiftly made his way to the small woodwind section he was to tend.

What an idiot he had been the night before. Didn't he and Simone always make fun of those petty romantic tensions that bubbled to the surface at Vinyl? Hadn't he been sure he would never fall into such a laughable role? But that's exactly what had happened to him, and perhaps it was his fault that Simone had, too. He inwardly berated himself angrily as a hypocrite as he stashed his backpack, filled with his half-finished papers and notes and pencils, behind the counter and next to a cardboard box of extra clarinet ligatures. And it was here he stood for the next few hours, waiting patiently for a student who never arrived. No one came through the section. No one had anything to do with him that day, it seemed. So Charlie, feeling as though he should do something productive, pulled his article on a local band out of his bag and began to finish what he could.

The shop grew quiet, but Charlie didn't notice until Davy tapped him on the arm, looking at him inquisitively. He jerked his thumb towards the door and said something that sounded somewhat along the lines of, "Everyone's gone to lunch. You coming?" For a moment Charlie didn't understand who this "everyone" was. But then he knew; it meant the store's employees. It meant Simone, and it meant Kameron.

Charlie just shook his head as Davy gave him a funny look, shrugged, and turned away. But he gave Charlie a very knowing look, between a smirk and a frown. The kid was sharp; nothing got by him. Or perhaps it was down to Charlie's inability to wipe his face and body of any embarrassing emotion. Either way, it unsettled him a little bit.

After a few more minutes of quietly writing, he became bored with trying to rearrange the letters in the local band's name Shifty Stilettos into things like Toss Shitty Filet and Feisty Sloth's Tit in order to articulate further the unimpressive pretentiousness and forced quirks of their show two nights ago. He wasn't sure what was more boring, sitting through an hour of bedazzled prancing about and pained, high-pitched wailing off-key, or writing an article about it. He had supposed at first it was some sort of homage to Queen, but after one song he was glad that Freddy wasn't alive to see his influence used in such a way. He smiled as he recalled the show; it was completely silly, but anything light at this point could get him to smile. The move that morning, which had caused him to come to work late, had been a mess. Though Charlie had not crammed too much for one person into the borrowed car, his eternal packrat of a cousin had claimed almost the entire small apartment for his assorted clutter. What followed had been a bitter dispute about what went and what stayed. Charlie had almost walked out fuming when it had been suggested he not bring over his saxophone later, since it wasn't "completely necessary," as opposed to the amp broken beyond repair, the "just-for-shits-and-giggles" glittery strap-on, the boxes of National Geographics and Playboys, the three lava lamps, and a wide assortment of other dusty objects. They had decided to break off the argument at least until later that night, when they both would return to the crammed space and fight for the rights of their possessions.

He sighed and pushed his hand into his already disheveled hair. He neither wanted to be at his parents' house, in Vinyl, or in the new apartment. With a little sigh, Charlie scuffled back to the practice room and pulled out his sax. Since he wouldn't be giving that one lesson today, he felt that he needed to play at some point. Fiddling with the reed in his mouth, he slipped on his worn neckstrap and fitted together the shiny neck and body. Feeling the reed was good and wet, he slipped it between the metal of the ligature and the black, smooth plastic of the mouthpiece, tightening the little screws until he was satisfied. Pulling the instrument close to him, he began to play.

What he was playing, exactly, he didn't know, but it just felt good to play regardless. He couldn't improvise at all on the koto, and that's why he repeatedly turned back to the saxophone. It was his instrument, from the low notes that reverberated up through the bell and into his chest, to the high, piercing cries he could coax or force out of it. It was natural to be fluid in his movements with the sax, as opposed to having to learn to be fluid with the koto. He leaned into the corner of the small room and let himself just play whatever he fancied. Was there a time signature? Probably not. But the structure that the music lacked seemed to parallel whatever structure he had just lost in his real life outside of the music. He held notes as long as he could, only to follow up with a big breath and give a sharp spatter and chatter of every different tone and inflection and articulation he wanted. That was what he loved best about this instrument; you could talk to it, tell it what you wanted it to do, and it would answer almost of its own accord.

Charlie didn't notice the front door opening. He had been too intent on playing to realize that the lunch break would soon be over and that the store would be filling up soon. So he was a bit shaken when the door to the little practice room opened with out warning. And when he turned to see Simone's anxious face peering in at his, he gave a startled cough into the mouthpiece of the saxophone, causing the beautiful instrument to squawk like some sort of large, greasy bird. She winced but smiled a bit. "So yeah... Is now a bad time to talk?"

He looked at her for a second before saying- bitterly, he immediately realized with a pang of shame- "No, go ahead." She stepped in and closed the door loosely behind her.

Ahhh...Lindsay was gone for good, and Kameron felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. He was really starting to love life again. Maybe he'd even look into recording some of his original material.

He'd just gotten home from work, where there was alot of drama unfolding, best to just steer clear of it, he mused, when he recieved a call from Mark, his boss.

"Hey Mark! What's up?"

"Listen Kameron, I've been contacted by a collector. He'd heard about you and how good you are a retrieving rare intruments, and has offered a ton of money to hire you to locate something for him. He's offered to pay wages and travel expenses for you and a guest to travel to Spain to locate this item."

"Whoa! are you kidding me, man?" Kameron was speechless.

"So does that mean you will do this? Listen, I know Spain is far away, and if you don't want to go, I understand...."

"How much is he willing to pay, besides travel expenses. How much to actually purchase the item?" Kameron asked.

The phone was very quiet for a moment, before Kameron heard a deep breath.

"100 thousand dollars."

Kameron thought that he would swallow his tongue, before he could reply though, Mark added quickly, "If you do this Kameron, I will pay you a bonus of 20 thousand. this will take our business to the next level if we are successful with this retrieval. What do you say?"

Kameron cleared his throat. "Who am I to take?"

Mark let out a whoop of joy. "I would like you to ask Rin. A little birdie told me that she hasn't been really happy lately. Maybe this would help."

"Sure thing boss. When do we leave?"

"As soon as Rin agrees. The sooner the better though....And Kameron?"

"Yeah?"

"I really appreciate this. Thank you."

"No problem, Mark. Thank you for having so much faith in me."


Kameron got off the phone and danced all around his apartment. Friggin' Spain!



Kameron got out the directory and dialed Rin's number. A woman answered the phone, and he asked to speak to Rin.

A moment later he heard a questioning " Hello?"

"Rin it's Kameron! Do I ever have a proposition for you!"




Corey was glad to be home, to be alone with his thoughts. He and Juliet had sucessfully avoided each other all day, thankfully. He still wasn't quite sure what to do about the situation. He really cared about Juliet, probably in a different way than he had ever cared for a girl. Maybe it was because she was Jeff's younger sister, so there was a protective element in addition to just regular attraction. No, it was more than that too.
Frustrated, Corey began the only task that was simple in his mind, playing the guitar. He plugged his amp in and played a few notes around, the vibrations under his fingers seeming to make his problems go away.

He played a few chords, trying to drown out his own thoughts. His fingers began to play by themselves, strumming out the notes of "stairway to heaven", the first song he had ever learned. The little band he had with Jeff had covered The Lemon Song, and it was then that he had gotten in an arguement with Juliet about the best zepplin song. He said stairway of course, and she said it was ramble on.

No good. Not even his beloved guitar could rid him of this girl. She had been the only thing Corey thought about for almost twenty four hours. He had to do something. Maybe, just maybe, he was in love with her.

No, Corey never fell in love. It was a fact he had prided himself on. There was a knock outside the apartment. Corey couldn't think who it was, so he got up. He could only see Juliet's face through the peephole, and his stomach began to twist and turn anxiously. It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling. He opened it.

"Does Jeff know you're here?" he asked before the door was fully open. Juliet stood with her hand on her hip, in jeans and a tank top, a small frown on her lips. She looked sexy, beautiful, gorgeous. Everything good a girl had ever looked, Juliet looked it at that moment. Corey fought the urges to both kiss her and run the other way.

"Jeff knows I'm safe," she said. "Are we going to talk about what happened yesterday?" she asked. Corey moved to the side to let her in. She walked past him and sat down on the couch. Corey watched her.

"Look, you know how I feel about you. I think you've always known. I don't know what that kiss meant to you," Juliet stopped.

Corey moved toward her, not quite sure what he was doing. He sat down next to her. Juliet's eyes were watering. He didn't want to see her cry. He wanted to stop her, to save her. He did the only thing her could think to do; the only thing he wanted to do. He pulled her into him, feeling her soft tank top, and kissed her. She still smelled beautiful. Corey didn't want it to end.
The music gods were out to get her. Simone was sure of it.

Everywhere she went was entrenched by endless lyrics and melodies that reminded her of the one thing she didn't want to think about. It followed her everywhere - in her apartment, in her car, out on the street, at lunch, at the coffee shop, even in the freaking elevator for crying out loud. She was definitely being hunted by some unseen force out to get her. Of course, it didn't help that she worked in a music store all day.

It had started with her mother's humming. After realizing she was out of coffee that morning, Simone had trekked from her garage apartment to her parents' house for some much needed caffeine. She had been greeted by the scent of soy sausage cooking on the stove and her mother's soft voice. The two of them exchanged a peck on the cheek as a way of saying hello but stayed silent. They both knew Simone wasn't much of morning person. Simone didn't stay long. She did a "dine and dash" - grabbing a cup of yogurt and large travel mug full of coffee.

It wasn't until she was half way to work that it dawned on her she was humming the same tune her mother had been. She couldn't get the song out of her head. What song is this, she wondered. The moment it came to her she almost slammed on the brakes. The lyrics to "The Nearness of You" came rushing into her brain. Sometime during the night her mind had gone numb. There was only so much speculation it could take before finally shutting down. But in that moment of recognition the past twenty-four hours came crashing back like a tidal wave.

Simone didn't want to think about Charlie, at least not yet. She switched on the radio to drown out the memory of kiss so sweet it made her runaway. But the music gods would not surrender that easy. They bombarded her with station after station of songs to keep her right at the edge - the explosive "A Kiss To Send Us Off" by Incubus, the morose "Angel Eyes" by Kenny Dorham, the soulful "Sunday Kind Of Love" by Etta James, the demanding "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge. Finally, when Simone couldn't take anymore, she shut off the radio and rolled the window to let the cool morning air calm her nerves. But the reprieve didn't last long as a car pulled up next to her blaring "Wonderwall" by Ryan Adams out of nearly dead speakers. The song only seemed to amplify her guilt.

She sighed in relief when she got to the store. She should have known better. Davy had quickly gathered everyone to tell them about the funeral for Rin. It was a brilliant plan and it had gone for beautifully, she even got a laugh out of the event. But everyone time she glanced at the broken shards of guitar Simone saw her two year friendship with Charlie - broken into small pieces.

The battle for her sanity continued throughout the day. The trip to the coffee shop nearly drove her into the straight jacket and lunch wasn't much better. The music jumped genres and decades just to reach out and twist her emotions a bit. Simone didn't think she could take much more without completely losing it.

So here she was, standing out the practice room, listening to Charlie play. The music was pure Charlie - going everywhere and nowhere, both complex and simple, all at the same time. She gripped the knob to the practice room but couldn't seem to the turn it. Just go in there and get it over with. Like ripping off a band-aid. Without giving leaving time to talk herself out it, Simone stepped into the room and closed the door softly behind her.

Charlie was surprised to see her, if the sour note from his saxophone was any indication. She winced but smiled a bit. "So yeah... Is now a bad time to talk?"

Charlie stared at her for a long minute for finally answering. "No, go ahead."

"Nothing's happening between me and Kameron." There ya go, Simone thought, very band-aid like.

Charlie looked like she had punched him in the stomach. He shook his head and looked down at his feet. "Its none of my business." The two of them stood on opposite sides of the room. It could have been the Mojave desert from distance he was putting between them. Simone couldn't take it, she took a step closer. He took a step back, unconsciously using his instrument as a kind of shield.

Something inside her broke a little at his actions but she kept going, taking another step closer. "We need to talk about the what happened last night."

Simone had no idea how she wanted things to turn out. Part of her wanted to runaway like there was no mañana. Part of her wanted to have things back the way they were. And part of her wanted to fall asleep in his arms.

Charlie took another step away from her, almost tripping over his music case. "There's nothing to talk about. It was a mis-"

There was a loud knock at the door. Rin peeked her head inside, looking at them both strangely. "Sorry to interrupt but there's a call for Simone at the front disk." Simone nodded in acknowledgment but Rin had already shut the door.

They stared at each other. Simone felt crestfallen and was too tired to hide it. But she was also determined to talk the situation out for no other reason than to stop musical karma from haunting her every step. "Are you closing tonight?"

He gulped. "Yeah."

"I guess we'll continue talking when you get off then." She went to leave when Charlie's voice stopped her. "I can't. I have to catch the bus right after."

Simone opened the door only to hear "You Really Got A Hold On Me" fill the room. It was an omen. "Don't worry. I'll drive you home." She walked out before he had a chance to argue.

The rest of the day was surprisingly busy. She sold a double bass drum kit to a customer over the phone and Gene Krupa style drum kit to a blonde, pig-tailed girl named Cindi who paid with money out of a decorated shoebox. All in all it wasn't a bad day's work. But night soon surrounded the store and no one was left except her and Charlie. She knew he was stalling their conversation so she got of his way to give him room to move.

Simone headed back to the "employee's lounge" which consisted of a faded red couch, a mini fridge and the sound system for the store. It was eerily quiet. After a day filled of lyrical torment, she needed something to break the silence. On the side of the stereo was a stack of cds that contain a bit of everyone's tastes. Simone sat back on her heels and browse. It was nice to pick the music for a change instead of luck picking for her. She struggled over listening to Mos Def or The Cowboy Junkies only to decide on El Chicano in the end. She set the music to play and laid down on the beat up couch for minute.

Simone groaned in frustration as the first chords reached her ears. Of course this would be the first song, she thought as "Sabor A Mi" played in the background. The translation of the lyrics running automatically in her head. The Spanish words were poignant but the English was just as beautiful. But, there, just as here, on your lips you'll always carry, a trace of me.. Simone didn't know whether to laugh or weep at the irony of it all. She did a little of both before finally falling alseep.
"Of course I'll come. Why wouldn't I. A trip to Spain and bonus money? How could I say no? When do we leave? How long will we be there?" Rin's mind was full of questions. She could hear Kameron on the other end of the phone just laughing.

© Copyright 2008 yorkie yo, candacepaige, dennis menace, LdyPhoenix, `lemur`, xx-xx, Raya, KC under the midnight sun, (known as GROUP).
All rights reserved.
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